Sunday, March 13, 2005

FILM: Walk on Water

We saw the Israeli film Walk on Water last night. This is a very intriguing film about baggage. Heavy emotional baggage. Not just "I'm haunted by my wife who committed suicide" kind of baggage (though there is that too), but even deeper collective cultural / national undercurrents, the burden of guilt of entire peoples and entire generations. Not just Israelis and Palestinians (though there is that too), but Israelis and Germans, younger Israelis and older Israelis, younger Germans and older Germans, and the inevitable 700-pound gorilla in that room, the Holocaust. And as if there's not enough psychic conflict to be mined in all of that fodder, layer on top of it a macho straight man confronting homosexuality. If this sounds like a recipe for a massively iconic story full of plot and characters contrived to effect the necessary symbolic gestures, it is indeed that. But the amazing thing is that the characters are genuinely and engagingly enacted, and I found myself pulled into their unusual story. The symbolism crept in disarmingly, not pedantically. The symbols were inhabited by dimensional people with real charms and flaws. Or perhaps it was just that each character was animated by multiple symbolic types at the same time, making them complex and multi-dimensional, rather than flat stereotypes. Either way, I found it fresh and engaging. (And along the way, a nice scenic Israel travelogue as well.) The title comes from an early scene with one character standing at the Sea of Galilee, and musing that he thinks it is possible to walk on the water, but you have to cleanse yourself first, completely unburden your heart. The film of course then shows us that completely unburdening one's heart is as easy as walking on water. You may not be completely unburdened of your baggage at the end of the film, but at least you'll know where some of the handles are.

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