The Cakemaker ***
Starring: Tim Kalkhof, Sarah Adler, Roy Miller, Zohar Shtrauss
Director: Ofir Raul Grazier
Grief can make people do strange things. This is definitely the case in The Cakemaker, the debut film from Israeli director Ofir Raul Grazier, which brings two people together who should probably never have met.
Oren (Miller) travels regularly to Berlin for work. There, he meets the hunky baker Thomas (Kalkhof) and falls in love with his cakes and with him. And his wife Anat (Adler) loves the cookies he brings back to Jerusalem too. The two men continue their affair on his trips to Germany, but when Oren suddenly stops returning his calls, Thomas soon discovers that his Israeli lover has been killed in an accident. With nothing in Berlin to hold him back, he gets on a plane to Israel, finds the café Anat runs and begins to insert himself into her life.
It’s unclear what Thomas wants to get from this venture, except finding out more about the man he loved but knew very little of. At times his motives are unintelligible and often the camera lingers for extended periods as he decides how far he wishes to take his curiosity, which becomes more of an obsession. Similarly, we spend long periods in close-up on Anat, watching her face as she begins to join the dots. Grazier has put a lot of faith in his actors’ ability to tell a story with their faces, which mostly pays off as slithers of feelings are hinted through their eyes, but these extended shots also serve to slow down the pace, which is often pretty glacial. These moments nod toward Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, but the moments they populate are but shades of the gravitas held in that now infamous shot of Nicole Kidman.
As Thomas and Anat get to know each other, the film is bogged down with Inactivity Syndrome. Bookended with strong scenes at the beginning and end, it’s a shame it sags so much in the middle because the story is compelling and its actors skilful. Tender, delicate and subtle, there is plenty of depth to the characters and their relationships. At its heart is a love story that transcends countries, sexuality and life itself, but you’ll just wish it got its skates on.