Last night I watched Eytan Fox‘s 2004 film Walk on Water. Here’s the trailer:

I have to admit that I really disliked Fox’s previous film, Yossi & Jagger, from 2002. That film was disappointing in so many ways, but I especially didn’t like the way it ended. I wasn’t in the mood for a film about missed opportunity in the Israeli army.

Because I disliked Yossi & Jagger, I almost didn’t watch Walk on Water. The U.S. Open is happening right now, and so I was going to watch that instead. But there was a lull between matches, so I thought I’d give the movie a chance when PJ started watching. I’m glad I did, because I really liked it.

Walk on Water is kind of the gay version of Munich. It stars Lior Ashkenazi as Eyal, an agent in the Mossad. As we see in the movie’s opening scene, he is very effective in his job, eliminating Palestinian agents. His career is thrown for a loop, however, when his wife commits suicide while he’s on assignment in Istanbul. When he refuses to seek therapy afterwards, the government deems him unfit for continued assignments.

One of his immediate superiors, however, seems to take pity on him, assigning him to the case of a recently discovered Nazi war criminal who has been hiding in Argentina. Since the old Nazi has suddenly disappeared, he is assigned to pose as a tour guide to the Nazi’s grandchildren: the granddaughter, Pia, played by Caroline Peters, lives on a kibbutz in Israel, and her brother, Axel, played by Knut Berger, is visiting her in the hopes of luring her back to Germany for their father’s sixtieth birthday party. As Eyal gets closer to the grandchildren, he also gets closer to learning the whereabouts of the Nazi criminal, but his increasing intimacy with Pia and Axel causes him to question his current mission.

Further complications ensue as Eyal discovers that Axel is gay. The two men have become rather close. When Axel spends the night with a Palestinian, Eyal’s response seems like some combination of revulsion and jealousy. When the assignment takes him to Germany to spend a few days with Axel, Eyal must ultimately come to terms with the past and present, his own, his people’s, and his country’s.

This is a complicated and interesting film. Parts of it strain credulity — Eyal seems to offer no Axel no explanation for almost literally arriving on his doorstep just days after Axel left Israel and Eyal swore he’d never visit Germany. But the actors and the overall story more than make up for these logical inconsistencies.

I also like the way the film handles Axel’s homosexuality. It does so in a forthright and non-preachy manner while also infusing the film with a little hotness. Knut Berger is excellent in this role, which becomes increasingly nuanced as the film progresses.

I also really liked Lior Ashkenazi. He manages to be likable, sexy, threatening, and totally confused all at the same time. The movie really succeeds or fails based on his character and our evolving image of him. He does an excellent job with it.

Finally, the film is trying to make some rather complex comparisons between contemporary Israel and Germany. I’m not entirely convinced that this comparison ultimately works, but I enjoyed the complicated tapestry that the film creates while weaving this comparison together. It’s certainly a thought-provoking film. I definitely recommend it.

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