“The Cakemaker”: Film Review

A quietly intense love story start in a Berlin Konditorei.

Oren (Roy Miller) travels from Jerusalem to Berlin every month, for work. He always stops at the same café, for a coffee and a generous slice of Black Forest gateau; he also always buys a little box of cinnamon cookies, for his wife, Anat (Sarah Adler). She also runs a café, in Jerusalem, and loves those cookies from Berlin. One day, he asks the baker, Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) for advice. What gift should he bring back for his young son? In the glances they share, something strong happens between Oren and Thomas the baker.

Oren lives with Thomas during his stays in Berlin. Their relationship becomes increasingly meaningful, sufficiently so that Thomas openly wishes for more, and asks Oren what would happen if his wife were to find out about their relationship. That will not happen, Oren says quickly. One day, when Oren is travelling back to Jerusalem, Thomas notices on the kitchen table Oren’s keys, and the cinnamon cookies intended his wife, forgotten.  Oren’s absence persists, uncharacteristically.

What Thomas does next is transgressive, and moving. He goes where angels fear to tread. He travels to Jerusalem, and somehow becomes part of the lives of Oren’s loved ones.  They do not know his secret. If the transgression seems a big leap, it feels a bit less so because Oren’s family was already part of Thomas’s world. And perhaps some, in the family, also have a sense of Thomas’s existence, however diffuse. Oren’s absence is at the heart of his loved one’s lives, and they long for him.

That longing, even when unspoken, is explored with great insight and sensitivity by director and writer Ofir Raul Graizer. His film is crafted with the care and love, and patience, of a master baker. In some ways, it is a fairy tale. Graizer does not flinch from showing what people do, when they are grieving and try somehow to relive what they have lost.

Boundaries are crossed but without darkness, gently, a walk towards some kind of unspoken, unacknowledged resolution. Thomas’s secret grief is quietly acknowledged by at least one person. This is a theme that Graizer has remarked on in interviews, speaking of “lovers who are not allowed to mourn”. He identifies Thomas as “the one who is not allowed to mourn, because he is not part of anything”. “The Cakemaker” is based on a true story, an exploration of love, loss, and restoration lovingly shot by cinematographer Omri Aloni. Remarking on the contrasting colour palette of the film’s two locations, Berlin and Jerusalem, one warm, the other at times quite cold, he has explained that though partly dictated by budget constraints, it was intended that “Berlin would be a bit warm, fairy-tale, like a place that is not really real, and “Israel is a bit more rough, cold, depressing”.When Anat’s café starts selling Thomas’s cakes, a bit of that Berlin warmth is transported to Jerusalem.

As with all fairy tales, after many compelling twists and turns, in the end order must be restored – or perhaps simply reconfigured. The extraordinary moment in time, when Oren’s loved ones attempt to recapture him in varied ways, is deeply affecting, fascinating. And something of this lives on: the cakes in Anat’s café – a memory of a Berlin love, in a corner of Jerusalem.

Available on DVD from Amazon now, and on demand on Apple TV from Monday 20th January.

Director & Writer Ofir Raul Graizer
Cinematographer Omri Aloni
Music Dominique Charpentier
Cast Sarah Adler, Zohar Shtrauss, Tim Kalkhof, Roy Miller, Sandra Sadeh

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