WALK ON WATER directed by Eytan Fox, written by Gal Uchovsky, with Lior Ashkenazi, Knut Berger and Carolina Peters. A Capri Films release. 114 min. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 18). For venues and times, see Movies, page 90. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Here's hoping walk on water floats with the city's art house crowd.
It's an unusual but fascinating hybrid of a movie: a subtitled thriller filmed in three countries, with compelling political, religious and psychological undertones.
Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi) is an Israeli hit man who's assigned to kill the aging Nazi war criminal Alfred Himmelman. Posing as a tourist guide, he befriends Himmelman's grandchildren Pia (Carolina Peters), who's on a kibbutz in Tel Aviv, and her brother Axel (Knut Berger), who's visiting from Berlin.
Problem is, Eyal's girlfriend has recently died, and as he drives Axel everywhere from the Sea of Galilee and the Wailing Wall to hot, sweaty nightclubs, he begins to fall apart, much to the disappointment of his fellow Mossad agents.
Director Eytan Fox and writer Gal Uchovsky, the team behind 2002's Yossi & Jagger, play with our feelings, initially getting us to sympathize with Eyal (an Israeli James Bond who loves Springsteen), then letting us back away, repulsed by his coldness.
There's no single-note political agenda at work here. The Mossad and the Germans are treated with equal detachment, and there are some great ironic set pieces, as when Axel, now back in Berlin for his father's 70th birthday party, leads the group in an Israeli folk dance.
If anything, Fox and Uchovsky focus on building tension between the two men, who are brilliantly cast. The fresh-faced Berger carries a lot of the film with his cheerfulness and steady, intelligent gaze, while the brooding, bedroom-eyed Ashkenazi (Late Marriage) is completely believable as an emotionally unavailable and gruffly inarticulate killer.
It's the evolution of their intriguing relationship that ratchets up the suspense, whether they're discussing musical tastes, musing about circumcision at the Dead Sea or fighting off skinheads in a Berlin subway.
Rarely does a film's climax seem both inevitable and surprising, but Walk On Water pulls off this minor miracle, even if a tacked-on denouement feels too pat and symbolic.