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“Walk On Water”
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There’s a thin line between disregarding history and clinging to it so tightly it clouds your present existence. In “Walk On Water,” characters are guilty of both extremes. As the protagonists are lead by their emotions, they discover only by finding middle ground, can they survive this complex world. In this moving film by Eytan Fox (“Yossi & Jagger”), audiences witness the complicated friendship between a deadly terrorist-hunter and a young German liberal who is the reluctant grandson of an escaped Nazi. The filmmakers pull back the layers of anti-Semitism, homophobia and the crippling affects of the past, shining a light on what weighs humans down, paralyzing us from growing.

Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi) has returned to Israel after assassinating a notorious terrorist for the Israeli government. Upon his return, his wife has ended her years of depression by committing suicide. His boss Menachem assigns Eyal to track down Herr Himmelman, one of the last living Nazis, a man responsible for destroying the town where both Menachem and Eyal’s mother lived. Obsessed with Himmelman, who has now disappeared from his South American safehouse, Menachem compels Eyal to put all his attention on the man’s capture before God takes him.

Eyal finds the mission to be irrelevant since there are more active menaces to Israel, but Menachem is resolute.

To add to Eyal’s frustration, in order to crack the case, he must baby-sit the Himmelman two grownup grandchildren. The granddaughter, Pia (Caroline Peters), lives in Israel on a Kibbutz, while her brother, Axel (Knut Berger), teaches immigrant children back in Germany. When Axel arrives in Israel to visit his sister, Eyal impersonates a tour guide to infiltrate the family. What he discovers instead are two levelheaded liberals, so ashamed of their grandfather, they have dedicated their lives to helping others. While the Himmelmen children have forced their family to make amends for sins they inherited, Eyal finds himself ensnared by his own demons. What could a highly respected Israeli intelligence agent possibly learn from the family of Nazis?

Director Fox is astute at painting a grey world, even when surrounded by such black and whites. Eyal is a hero, but in his capacity as a protector of Israeli innocence, he murders for hire. In the opening scene, he eliminates a man right beside the man’s little boy. Eyal recognizes that the price for safety is robbing the boy of HIS innocence. Like Pia and Axel, the young boy is not responsible for his father’s crimes, yet at such a young age, he shall pay the price.

Where Fox winds up in trouble is by heavy-handling symbolism. He calls his film “Walk on Water,” a curious Christ-symbolic title for a Jewish film. The title is highlighted thirty minutes in when Axel and Eyal visit the Sea of Galilea and Axel attempts to walk on the water. At other times, Axel wears a tee-shirt with the lettering “Miracle Workers.” Is Axel meant to represent Christ because he and his sister work off the debt of their family’s sins?

Then there are Eyal’s blocked tear ducts. He reminds Axel, and the viewer, that he can’t cry even if he wanted to due to the ailment. Had it not come out in dialogue, it may have not felt so redundant.

In other ways, Fox subtly supports his characters with visuals. In many scenes, he shows Eyal walking down long hallways, or skulking away from people. Without dialogue, it clarifies Eyal as a man in seclusion, one on the fringe and lonely. There’s also a visual correlation between ocean waves of Galilea and sound waves of the hidden tape recorders where Eyal waits for the Himmelmans’ secrets to be revealed.
The cast is flawless. Ashkenazi transmits the alienation and fear in Eyal. He and both Caroline Peters and Knut Berger have powerful chemistry. Berger, whether singing a campy song with his sister, or offering compassion to his emotionally crippled friend, is the soul of the piece.

Thought-provoking, “Walk On Water” is a tender piece, conjuring up another odd couple who heal each other because of their differences and their exposure to different experiences. By taking xenophobic characters, the film makes a plea for xenophilia. Grade: B+

 
 
 
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