By Susan Kandell Wilkofsky
The Cakemaker is a little like a savory soufflé — delicate and delectable, but very fragile.
One ingredient — secrecy — threatens to deflate the finely honed confection.
The funny thing about reviews is that they often reveal too much about a film. If you read enough reviews, you’ll be familiar with the entire story — so, why bother seeing it at all? But this film is different. How different? Even the filmmakers chose to put one of the early plot tangents into the trailer. Spoiler alert: Don’t read past this paragraph if you’d like to be completely surprised by the initial premise of The Cakemaker. But even if you view the trailer, there are plenty more delectable and surprising moments to come.
Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) is a skilled pastry chef who runs a shop in Berlin. It’s here that he meets Oren (Roy Miller), an Israeli engineer who travels frequently to Berlin for work.
Despite the impediments in their way (Oren is married), they embark on an intense and intimate affair. Their relationship ends abruptly when Thomas discovers that Oren has been tragically killed in a traffic accident in Israel.
Seeking to assuage his grief, Thomas travels to Jerusalem in search of answers. The truth is, I’m not sure that even Thomas knows why he journeys to Israel; to become part of his partner’s life even after his death? Is he just curious? Oren’s wife, Anat (the always wonderful Sarah Adler), owns a small kosher café, and Thomas begins frequenting the shop. One day, he impulsively inquires about a job, and before you can say “mandelbrot,” Thomas is washing dishes. As the oven heats up, so does a romance between Anat and Thomas. But as Thomas becomes more intimately involved in Oren’s family, the secret become harder to suppress.
Just like the delicious pastries prepared by The Cakemaker, writer and director Ofir Raul Graizer, in his first feature-length film, is like a master chef, knowing just how to blend the right ingredients in perfect measure. Graizer took a smidge of religion, a pinch of German/Jewish relations, a dose of bisexuality and a dollop of mourning and produced a beautiful human drama — devoid of preaching and judgments. There are no labels here, just an extraordinary love story about two lonely people and their need to connect.
The outstanding soundtrack by Dominique Charpentier adds to the tender drama. Perhaps my only criticism was the epilogue. So when the film is over, you might have to find a little café, order some strudel and discuss.
I had the opportunity to speak with Grazier by email. Here is an excerpted conversation with the talented writer/director.
Susan Kandell Wilkofsky: I am so pleased to “talk” with you today. Ready?
Graizer: Thank you for this interview. I am so happy the film opens in Dallas. I’ve never been there but maybe one day I will. Shoot.
SKW: I read that this story was inspired by real-life events. Can you elaborate on that?
ORG: The narrative is derived from a story of a friend of mine. a man who led a double life and died. To create the woman and the secret lover (the other side of the triangle), I took things from my own life. Religious father, secular mother, Jerusalem and Berlin: two of my favorite cities, growing up as gay in a macho patriarch society and my great love for cooking and baking. I put my life into the story. I know these streets, these alleys, these kitchens. I lived in them.
SKW: The film takes place in two locales that you are familiar with — Israel and Berlin. Were you also familiar with baking? Are you a baker?
ORG: I bake, but I am not a professional baker. I even teach cooking in a culinary school, but only as a side hobby. Food is something very personal and basic for me, something of the everyday, of home, not of fancy waiters or special uniforms.
SKW: I also read that the film will be remade in the U.S. How much input will you have on that film? Are you directing?
ORG: I won’t direct it, but I am involved in the writing of the first version. I don’t know where it will go from there.
SKW: What’s next for you, Ofir? Whatever it is, if it’s half as good as The Cakemaker, it’ll be wonderful.
ORG: I’m now working on different scripts in the hope that one of them will be produced soon… One story is about a clerk who develops an obsession for a painting; the other of a man who returns to his homeland after 10 years of absence to bury his father. I hope one of these will be made in the near future.
I look forward to the U.S. remake — with perhaps Matt Damon in the title role. He resembles Tim Kalkhof, but might have to gain a few pounds for the job. Perhaps he should start eating some Black Forest cake.