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A Rich Drink of 'Water'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 1, 2005; Page WE44

It's telling that the name of the latest movie from director Eytan Fox ("Yossi and Jagger") -- a film whose miracle-evoking title refers to the main character's supernatural dreams -- is a biblical allusion. Opening in the Holy Land with both a death and a suicide, the story of Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi), a conservative, ice-blooded assassin working for Israel's elite Mossad intelligence agency, is about a kind of martyrdom and redemption, only without the obvious Messiah figure that would oversimplify the film's rich, dark poetry.

Assigned by his Mossad handlers to pose as a tour guide for Axel (Knut Berger), a gay German visiting his cute, kibbutz-dwelling sister Pia (Caroline Peters), the homophobic, anti-German Eyal finds himself drawn emotionally to both siblings, even as he nears his secret goal, which is to find out whether Pia and Axel's grandfather, a fugitive Nazi, is still living, and if so to track him down and terminate the old man. Catalyzed by his growing friendship with Axel, whose comfortable sexuality and liberal politics, epitomized by a one-night stand Axel has with a handsome young Arab (Yousef "Joe" Sweid), are at first repugnant to Eyal, our avenging angel gradually starts to question the values of his black-and-white world. "What's to think?" Eyal asks rhetorically, early in the film, indicating that his is a life of action and reaction, not moral complexity.

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Eventually, after evidence surfaces suggesting that Axel's grandfather may still be alive, Eyal finds himself in Berlin playing houseguest at Axel's family home. When an incident of subway gay-bashing forces Eyal to confront the analogy between homophobia, Nazism and his own line of work, Eyal has an epiphany about the implications of playing God. At the same time, Axel is forced to confront his own anger about his family's legacy, leading to a kind of balance and honesty at the film's conclusion that satisfies aesthetically, even as it disturbs morally.

Fox's film seems to say that the kind of saintly purity that would enable one to walk on water -- or to kill with impunity and without repercussions -- doesn't exist.

WALK ON WATER (Unrated, 94 minutes) --Contains obscenity, some violence (both actual and theoretical), nudity and discussion of sexuality. In Hebrew and German with subtitles and some English. At Landmark's Bethesda Row and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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