Walk on Water (film)
Walk on Water is an Israeli film released in 2004. It stars Lior Ashkenazi, Knut Berger, and Caroline Peters. It was directed by New York-born Israeli director Eytan Fox. The screenplay was written by Gal Uchovsky. Most of the dialogue takes place in English, although there is much in Hebrew and German. Its name derives in part from Jesus' Walking on water.
The real meaning of 'walking on water' is that one has to get out of the boat and have enough confidence to do it. That is also the theme of this film, with its connections to the past and the present in an uneasy mingling of prejudices and learning; how to overcome those personal inhibitions and flaws to finally be able to walk on water. (Quote from a review by Antyllus on amazon.)
Eyal is an agent in Mossad, the Israeli security service. He is a hitman who targets enemies of Israel and of the Jews for a living. His wife has recently committed suicide, and the agency decides that he needs to take on a less challenging assignment: to find an aging Nazi war criminal and kill him "before God gets to him".
In order to track down the old man, Eyal poses as a tour guide and befriends the Nazi's adult grandchildren, Axel and Pia. Pia lives on a kibbutz, an Israeli commune. Her brother Axel visits her in order to convince Pia to return to Germany for their father's seventieth birthday. It is later revealed that Pia's estrangement with her parents began when she discovered that they were hiding her grandfather. She shares this information with Axel.
Although he has a job to perform, Eyal truly befriends Axel and Pia. Axel and Pia are decent people who demonstrate that most Germans have gotten beyond the hatred that led to the Holocaust. They spend time together and Eyal enjoys himself, even if he would not openly admit so. His friendship with Axel allows him to display some humanity, letting down his tough-guy machismo. Eyal and Axel even take a mud bath by the Dead Sea, showering off together in the nude afterward.
When the three are at dinner one night in a Tel Aviv restaurant, Axel speaks privately to the Palestinian waiter, Rafik, and finds out where the best club in town is. Later that evening, Axel, Pia, and Eyal arrive at the club. Eyal is shocked to discover that it is a gay club. He sees Axel dancing with Rafik and is taken aback.
Eyal is initially disgusted and disappointed to discover that Axel is gay. He asks to be removed from the assignment, not attempting to hide his homophobia as the reason. His boss, Menachem, insists that Eyal finish the mission. Eyal visits Germany and comes to realize that Axel's orientation is unimportant. During the visit, Eyal defends a group of Axel's transsexual friends from attackers and, in doing so, reveals that he is fluent in German. He tells Axel that his parents were German, leaving out that most of the Jews in his mother's region of Germany had been killed by Axel's grandfather. Later during the visit, Eyal runs into Menachem, whose family was also killed by the grandfather's Nazi activities.
Axel invites Eyal to his father's birthday party. The guests are uncomfortable about Eyal's nationality and religion, but, still polite. After the cake is brought out, Axel's parents surprise the guests by bringing out Axel's aged grandfather. Axel angrily confronts his parents and goes to Eyal's room, only to find a folder full of information on Axel's family. Meanwhile, Eyal meets with Menachem and tells him that they can easily take the grandfather and bring him to Israel to be tried for his war crimes. Menachem reveals that they are the only two on this mission, and the aim is to kill the grandfather. Eyal is clearly conflicted, but takes the case of poisons that Menachem gives him.
Eyal arrives at Axel's house and enters the grandfather's room, unbeknowst to all but Axel. Axel sneaks up behind Eyal and watches as he fills a syringe with poison, doing nothing to intervene. Ultimately, though, Eyal is unable to fulfill the task. He leaves, and Axel tenderly caresses his grandfather's face before turning off his oxygen tank, killing him. He goes to Eyal's room, where Eyal tells him that the suicide note his wife wrote to him told him that he kills everything that comes near him, and he cannot kill anymore.
The story jumps ahead 2 years. Eyal and Pia are married with a child, and Eyal and Axel remain good friends.
Eyal, a Mossad agent (Lior Ashkenazi)
Axel Himmelman, a young German man (Knut Berger)
Pia Himmelman, Axel's sister, who lives on an Israeli kibbutz (Caroline Peters)
Menachem, Eyal's boss (Gideon Shemer)
Rafik, a young Palestinian man with whom Axel 'hooks up' (Yousef 'Joe' Sweid)
The film's soundtrack included a rendition of the classic Esther and Avi Ofarim hit "Cinderella Rockefella" sung by Rita Kleinstein and Ivri Lider, as well as a remix of Lider's "Mary La'Netzach" ("Mary Forever").
Walk on Water premiered on February 5 2004 at the Berlin International Film Festival. It opened in Israel on March 18 2004. It was first shown in the United States on October 24 2004 at the Milwaukee International Film Festival. It opened in limited release in American theatres on March 4 2005.
Awards and nominations
Awards of the Israeli Film Academy (2004)
Best Music - Ivri Lider
Best Music, Original Song - Ivri Lider
Best Sound - Gil Toren (tie)
Best Actor - Lior Ashkenazi
Best Director - Eytan Fox
Best Screenplay - Gal Uchovsky
Best Cinematography - Tobias Hochstein
Best Editing - Yosef Grunfeld
France's Cesar Awards (2006)
Best foreign film
Caroline Peters, the actress who played Pia, revealed on Israeli television that her real-life grandfather was a Nazi. [*]