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|Index||65 reviews in total|
"Walk on Water" piles layers of personal, family, religious, cultural,
historical, employment, geopolitical, sexual, geographical, guilt and
responsibility issues on two men -- and still makes it work as the
gripping story of two individuals whose lives affect each other.
I saw an interview with director Eytan Fox where he said he wanted to imagine the two most opposite men possible and make them deal with each other. With writer Gal Uchovsky, he focuses on two men who are almost philosophical constructs of dissimilarity yet they come across as real people whose actions and reactions are unpredictable.
The central character Eyal is the quintessential sabra (Israeli-born native), a craggy, macho Mossad agent unable to discuss his feelings about his ravaged marriage, a child of a Holocaust survivor, fatigued with terrorist attacks and revenge, but in the opening moments efficiently murders a Hamas leader.
He is sent by his mentor/father figure on a rogue mission that annoys him in every possible way -- going undercover to gain the confidence of a young German fully integrated into the EU whose every opinion, action, lifestyle and family background he despises, a continental take on "Donnie Brasco." They personify Faulkner's dictum that "The past is never dead. It's never even past." as each man learns that the measure of a man is not just what he does today and did yesterday, but the genetics and heritage that make up his identity and does influence his choices -- choices that we hold our breaths to see played out.
Lior Ashkenazi captures the screen projecting the relaxed casualness of male camaraderie comfortable from years in the military and then his reactions as he gradually realizes he's been thrust into more complex situations.
Though the situations get a bit too artfully complicated when their somewhat picaresque adventures range from the German's kibbutznik sister to Palestinians to skinheads and a somewhat unnecessary though emotionally satisfying coda, the dialog does refrain from a couple of the most obvious ironies as each man gradually reveals their true nature to each other.
Hearing "Achtung!" amidst Israeli folk dancing is among the unusual juxtapositions in a movie where the characters can only communicate across the divides in English, amidst the three languages they speak among themselves.
While the original music by Ivri Lider is particularly good at emphasizing the underlying emotional content and the diverse cultural environs they find themselves in, the selection of popular music they are listening to adds an additional level of knowing commentary, from the agent's preference for Bruce Springsteen, the avatar of rock 'n' masculinity (particularly the symbolism of him favoring "Tunnel of Love"), to European pop and oldies novelty songs to Israeli folk and popular songs, including the agent's great discomfort at having to translate a poignant romantic song from the Hebrew.
This is a unique film that has several layers all happening at
The clash between gay and hetro men. The Israeli-Arab conflict. Bringing Natzi criminals to justice. All this and more while undergoing a sight-seeing tour north and south of Israel with its beautiful scenery.
To summerise... A must see film. Not your usual expected Hollywood drama but a true multi-cultural story with dynamic and evolving characters.
Sometimes the opening credits predict a great deal about the film
itself. Sometimes it's a deliberate decision of the director and
sometimes it's a plain business decision. James bond's movies always
began with silhouettes of highly attractive women holding guns in a
"I'm having a seizure" postures (a long and annoying tradition that
stopped only on "Die another day") , Ed Wood films opening credits were
presented as epitaffs on graves (indicating that people would see the
films over their dead bodies) etc.
This film's credits are pretty conventional, only they are in English. This is more than slightly perplexing since this film is not only shot, mainly, in Israel but also because it deals with a topic that is highly charged and controversial among Israelis, namely, the collaboration with modern day Germany, in light of the not so distant past of the Holocaust.
Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi in a terrific performance) is a Mossad agent, returning from Turkey after an efficient and clean assassination of a Terrorist only to find that during his absence his wife, Iris, committed suicide. Eyal, an obtuse individual who only benefited from it in his work, seems unaffected emotionally by such a tragic loss and the worried powers that be demote him (to his dismay) to gather information about a Nazi criminal that lives a clandestine life in an undisclosed location. Eyal poses as a tour guide for Axel, the Nazi's grandson, visiting his sister in a Kibbutz (a once glorified and now decaying socialist community) after she disengaged herself from her parents.
The "Spying" mission turns soon enough to be a "Roman a clef", a self discovery voyage where Eyal deals with his upbringing in a house of Holocaust survivors and the flaws of his character that made him a first rate assassin but a third rate human being. Axel, the German tourists who starts as Eyal's nemesis (not only because of his origin but also due to his gay tendencies and his merry and merciful personality), ends up as the one who turns Eyal's life around.
The relationship with modern day Germany is still a touchy subject in Israel and will probably remain so for many decades to come. Till this day, many families don't travel to Germany or even buy German products and although I believe that no generation is born with a debt, I never judge those who boycott Germany considering the demons they have to face as a result of the never too distant to be forgotten Holocaust. This movie deals with the dealing of both Israelis and Germans with their past and with each other by the impossible friendship between Eyal and Axel.
The Latin credits, as I said before, are the prophecy for the filmmakers' intention for foreign viewing. It begins with the almost apologetic mentioning that Eyal's assassination "victim" is a terrorist , continues with the too PC and not very plot-essential coexistence with the Israeli-Arab population and the atmosphere of the gay night life.
Moreover, the film conveniently deals with another controversial subject, Palestinian Terror, in a manner that is easier for the European "creative stomach" to digest. At a certain point, its over flown with excessive self-righteousness that is rarely identified in a terror ridden country.
That reservation is the film's only major flaw and, altogether, the collaboration between the writer, Gal Uchovski, and director, Eitan Fuchs, spawns one of the best written and directed Israeli films I came across. Aided with wonderful acting and well constructed plot, this film encounters its major controversial issue bravely and authentically which I assume, atones the writer and driector's failure to do so in its minor one.
8.5 out of 10 in my FilmOmeter.
I won't bother to summarize the movie, because many of the existing user comments give very detailed descriptions of the plot (much more information than someone who hasn't seen the movie yet would want). I just want to encourage anyone who hasn't seen the movie to check it out. It's a provocative movie, exploring a bunch of interesting themes, including Israeli relations with both Palestinians and Germans. I also found it to be an engaging film, with interesting characters and many involving story lines. It's almost a fable or fairytale, which the title alludes to. Go in the right frame of mind and you'll enjoy the movie very much, as I did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Israel cinema is to be commended for excellent film making, done with
conviction and courage. In the last few years we have been blessed with
movies that are tremendously appealing. Such is the case with "Walk on
Water". Under the sure direction of Eytan Fox, and based on a screen
play by Gal Ushavsky, we embark in a trip of revenge and understanding
between two men on opposite sides.
If you haven't seen the film, perhaps stop reading here.
When the film opens, we see an idyllic boat trip along the Bosphorus in Istambul. The serene scene of the sightseeing trip suddenly turns sinister as we watch Eyal approach the couple and child seating in front of him during the trip and kills the man with a lethal injection.
The action then changes to Israel. We get to know Eyal is a member of Israel's secret service organization. Eyal has had it and wants to break away, but his superior, Menachem gives him a new order to track down an old Nazi war criminal. His grandchildren happen to be in the country, Pia, as a volunteer in a kibbutz and Axel who is on vacation.
Eyal is of two minds. Why kill an old man? Why now? Menachem's idea is that getting rid of that beast is an act of avenging Eyal's parents and other victims. When Eyal gets home he finds his wife has committed suicide. As a way to get away from his problems, Eyal agrees to go on a last mission.
In the process, Eyal discovers that the gentle Axel and Pia, repudiate the idea of the German past. Eyal, who has been cool toward Axel because of the latter's homosexuality, is sent to Berlin to infiltrate the family during an upcoming birthday party where he discovers Axel's grandfather as an added surprise. Pushed by Menachem to kill the old man, Eyal, discovers that he can't do the killing.
The movie presents a lot of ideas for which there are no easy answers. Eyal recognizes the innocence of both Axel and Pia, to whom the mere idea of such a past is repugnant, at best. Eyal is torn between duty and what he feels is the right thing to do. Eyal's wife suicide is never completely justified, or explained.
The problems between Palestinians and Israelis play also a part in the story. We hear about different suicide bombings happening in parts of the country. Also, when Eyal confronts a Palestinian gay man that has taken Axel shopping in a relative's store, puts in motion the hatred he feels for the group that are terrorizing his country.
In Lior Ashkenazi, the director has found a charismatic Eyal. This actor exudes virility, honesty and integrity. Eyal is torn between the men who committed the atrocities during WWII, and the present. In his mind, there are fewer of them now, let them die, as they're not in any position to harm anyone, any more.
Knut Berger plays Axel Himmelman with an ease that is disarming. Mr. Berger makes this man appealing. The actor makes an extraordinary contribution to the film. Caroline Peters is also good as Pia, the kind soul that doesn't want anything to do with her German past. In Israel she has found her happiness. Gideon Senner, is Menachem, the old man in charge of the secret service agency whose mission is never let the world forget about the suffering the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
"Walk on Water", thanks to Mr. Fox's direction captures our attention from the beginning. We look forward anxiously to his next efforts.
I have seen this movie a few days ago, and I am still thinking about it. I
believe this is one of the best films I have seen in a very long while.
film has a rare combination of being fun to watch and amusing at times,
combined with a real deep movie with real deep characters and
It is safe to say that the film is not clean of some logical flaws, but they do not disturb the flow of the film. I loved everything about this film, from the script to the acting and to the excellent photography (which, I have to admit, is rare in Israelie movies, at least until the last few years).
Although I do understand that Israelies and Germans are more likely to connect to this film, I recommend it to everybody. I think it can be appreciated by anyone who likes quality cinema.
I saw this film without knowing anything at all about it, except that
it was Israeli and about someone getting to know his enemy. I was
utterly entranced by the story, and the way it interwove complex
conflicts like Israeli v. Arab, Jew v. Nazi, even gay v. straight,
issues which are usually only dealt with in simplistic terms --
especially in all the homogenized, mainstream pap that comes out of
I found the characters to be fascinating and complex, each of them struggling with his own private conflicts. The main character, Eyal, played by gorgeous Lior Ashkenazi, who is a major star in Israel, is a cold, unfeeling assassin working for the Mossad. We see how efficiently he performs his duties in the opening. But Eyal is a character who is emotionally damaged, his feelings so bottled up that he can't even mourn the suicide of his wife.
Because he refuses psychological counselling, he is denied another mission but is instead assigned to a pet project of Menachem, his world-weary boss, to befriend the grandchildren of an aging Nazi who had come close to exterminating Menachem and Eyal's mother as well, in order to try to discover information about the grandfather's whereabouts.
Eyal is grudgingly polite to the German sister, who has moved to Israel and lives on a kibbutz. Because she has to work, Eyal spends all his time with her visiting younger brother, who is a kind, open, caring, and humanistic youth. Eyal finds himself increasingly drawn to this young man, in ways he can't understand. His eyes reveal his growing fascination, but confusion at unfamiliar feelings he didn't know were there. The core of the movie is their growing relationship, both in emotional as well as physical terms, as they shower together naked, and Eyal rubs suntan lotion on the young German while they are both nude.
When it finally dawns on Eyal that Axel is gay, which everyone else on the planet had figured out long ago, it upsets Eyal's macho self-image and he grumpily retreats -- but circumstances compel his return, and he finds that the feelings Axel has stirred up in him save his soul.
Eyal is a Mossad agent who specializes in terminating those that his
agency deems enemies. Upon returning from a mission in Istanbul, he
finds that his wife has committed suicide. Until he has been evaluated
by a therapist Eyal cannot return to his regular field assignments and
is given the task of getting close to the grandchildren of one of the
last surviving Nazi war criminals in hopes of finding out where the old
man is. The old man has recently disappeared, the man's son is nearing
his 70th birthday and his grandson is coming to Israel to visit his
Eyan poses as a tour guide and is quickly accepted by Axel, the grandson and Pia his sister. Eyan spends most of his time with the charming, spontaneous and open Axel but starts forming a friendship with both grandchildren.
Between his emotions over the death of his wife and his growing feelings for the two grandchildren Eyan has a crisis of conscience. Can he violate the trust the two have placed in him? Can he kill again?
Overall this is a well written; many faceted story, remarkably well told. I personally didn't care for the ending but I can't explain too much without giving away what happens.
I don't know why other reviewers characterize the Eyal character as "racist" (just because he calls suicide bombers "animals" which is too good an epithet) or "homophobic" (just because he is asking about some technical details about gay relations). In my humble opinion, the movie is a fair description of Israeli realities, and German (or European) softness for terrorists. Being familiar with both Israeli and German realities I found was fascinated by the director's insights and by the fine acting of the three principals as well as the supporting actors. The music by Esther and Abi Ofarim and the nice mixture of German, Englicsh and Hebrew made the movie most enjoyable.
Conflict is the theme of this movie: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
the acceptance of gay men by heterosexual men and young Germans with
their country's history. The storyline, set in modern-day Turkey,
Israel and Germany, is intriguing though I found the final scene
unnecessary until the producer explained that it was added to give
Israeli audiences a sense of hope for the future.
The representation of German culture was quite accurate: young Germans cannot identify with their grandparents' experiences during the second world war.
What started out as a very promising film became a bit too stereotyped in the end: while there has be a rise in neo-Naziism in Germany, attacks in the subway are rare (especially in cosmopolitan cities like Berlin); having a German grandfather who lived in exile in Argentina is also fairly atypical - more realistic would have been a grandfather who could not understand/identify with the youth or who completely agreed with the youth and struggled with his own past.
The use of language throughout the film is very realistic and the English text is direct and simplistic. The characters can be forgiven for their language abilities since English is their second language. However, the simplicity and moralistic tone are a bit patronizing for an English-speaking audience.
Walk on Water is an entertaining movie that will encourage you to consider conflicts from a variety of viewpoints.
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