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Movie Review by Dan Spiers
Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Knut Berger, Caroline Peters, Gideon Shemer
Director: Eytan Fox
WALK ON WATER, directed by Eytan Fox, is an intelligent, thought provoking drama that looks at the parallels between the German and Israeli people, and their need to come to terms with their past in order to lead lives unaffected by it.
The movie focuses on a Mossad agent, Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi), who returns home from a successful assassination attempt to find his wife has committed suicide. Clearly traumatised by events but unwilling to see a psychologist, Eyal is placed on gardening leave by his superior, Menachem (Gidon Shemer) and asked to conduct a surveillance operation.
To his evident displeasure Eyal spies upon a young German, Axel Himmelman (Knut Berger), who is visiting his sister, Pia (Caroline Peters) in Israel. Menachem believes the Himmelman siblings will lead him to their Nazi grandfather, Alfred Himmelman, long thought dead, but who Menachem believes to be alive.
By day Eyal takes Axel from the shores of the Dead Sea to various holy sites in Jerusalem and by night listens to the siblings’ conversations from the comfort of his own home using the bugs he has planted in their apartment. As the film unfolds, Eyal does garner information that leads him to Berlin, but more pertinently through his relationship with Axel he learns much more about himself as indeed Axel does too.
Place is very important to WALK ON WATER, with Fox effectively taking the viewer on a guided tour of both Jerusalem and Berlin. What is evident is the indelible mark history has made upon the landscape and the contrasting ways this has been etched on the psyche of the Israeli and German people.
Whilst in Jerusalem Eyal defines parts of the city by their relation to the Arab/Israeli struggle, but Axel describes Berlin without reference to Nazism at all. The point being Israelis are drowning in their past whilst Germans are doing their utmost to avoid the water.
The success of the film is largely down to the relationship between Eyal and Axel. At points Eyal is clearly ingratiating himself with Axel, but at what stage does his professional duty give way to a genuine interest and his attitude to life change? It is impossible to tell, but the process is engaging.
German guilt and the Israeli persecution complex have been revisited many times but WALK ON WATER manages to explore them in a manner that is refreshing and indeed rewarding. Fox deftly uses the Israeli and German landscape to add resonance to the story his characters are playing out, and as the narrative reaches its conclusion characters become people you increasingly care about.