Walk on Water
It’s always nice to discover a movie you’re heard absolutely nothing about, and find that it’s really quite good. I can’t call it a sleeper, since no one in the US saw it, but I guess “buried treasure” works pretty well. It’s mostly in English, though there is a fair amount of Hebrew and German, too.
We open here with a really nice cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” which predisposed me to like the film. Later, we hear the original recording. Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi) is an assassin for the Mossad. We see him taking down a terrorist mastermind in Istanbul. Then he returns home to find his wife has committed suicide. His boss wants him to look into a report about an old fucking Nazi who has possibly been hiding in South America. He would be pushing 90 now. Eyal thinks this is bullshit, as many Israelis of his generation do. Why not just let it all go? They’re almost all dead, right? But the boss had a personal bone to pick, as this man supervised the genocide of almost all Jews in his part of Germany, which is also Eyal’s.
His assignment is to spy on the old man’s grandchildren. Axel (Knut Berger) is in Israel to visit his sister Pia (Caroline Peters), who has renounced her German heritage to the extent of living on a kibbutz. He poses as a paid guide, and drives them around to see the sights. He also bugs her apartment. In the course of this he involuntarily forms a strong bond with Axel, and is interested in Pia.
It comes out that granddad is in fact alive, something Axel didn’t know about but Pia did. It is why she left Germany. She has not quite been able to turn her parents in for abetting him, though it’s clear she would like to. Gramps has been smuggled back into Germany for Pop’s 70th birthday party. He’s in a wheelchair, breathing with oxygen, a total wreck. But still a fucking Nazi, as are their rich parents and all their friends. Eyal gets an order to kill the old fuck.
That’s all that can be told. Eyal is the last to realize that Axel is gay. He is at first repulsed, but is able to overcome it, awkwardly at first, then more easily. He genuinely likes the guy, and it is returned, though not in a sexual way for either of them. A gay man posting on the IMDb claims that the ending was tacked on so it would sell in the US. He feels the logical ending would be for Eyal to fall in love with Axel. I don’t agree, I don’t think one’s sexual orientation changes like that, but I do agree the ending seems tacked on … but I couldn’t help liking it, since I’m partial to both heterosexual love stories and happy endings.
The writing, the acting, and the moral dilemmas are all very well done. It was interesting to see a bit of a real kibbutz, which in my mind has always conjured images of Boy Scout camp or the 4H Club mixed with migrant labor. You know, log cabins and tents and slopping the hogs and backbreaking labor in the fields. There was some of that back in 1940, but these places have been around many decades now. This one looked like a really nice junior college campus, with apartment blocks and a huge communal cafeteria.
Side note: Caroline Peters revealed in an interview that her own grandfather was a Nazi, just like the character she plays. This has always struck me as a terrible burden for a moral German—and most of them are, just like any other nationality. To know that your parents, or these days your grandparents, acted like monsters … how awful. How many generations before the guilt is expunged? Another one, at least.
SPOILER WARNING: Ah, hell, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to comment on the end. Eyal goes to the mansion where the old fucking Nazi is hidden, ready to lethally inject him. By now Axel has discovered that Eyal is Mossad, and he watches from the background as … Axel can’t do it. His wife’s suicide note told him that everything he touched died. He is through with killing. He leaves … and Axel goes to the old man and turns off his oxygen. He dies almost immediately.
And good for you, Axel! If it were me, I would have added one final touch. I’d have packed and called a taxi and, as I left, I would have told Moms and Pops that I killed the genocidal old fuck. And what are you going to fucking do about it, oh parents of mine? Hah! Not a damn thing you can do, without putting yourselves in jail.