A movie in which Jerusalem symbolizes religious oppression while Berlin represents freedom and liberty is a particularly obscene type of propaganda. Europe frequently compares Israelis to Nazis, claiming that the Jewish state does to Palestinians precisely what the Nazis did to Jews - a blasphemous comparison that an educated person should be ashamed to utter. Yet, here we are viewing “The Cakemaker” and watching Shabbat become synonymous with narrow-minded, even violent religious Jews - people who don’t trust non-Jews and punish those Jews who don’t subscribe to strict orthodoxy. In actuality, only 8% of Israelis identify as ultra-orthodox while 20% of Israelis are Arabs.
The plot that cloaks the anti-religious sentiment concerns Oren, an Israeli man who travels frequently to Berlin on business. While there, he frequents a cafe from which he purchases cookies for his wife while entering into a torrid love-affair with Thomas, its baker and owner (or manager). After Oren’s sudden death, Thomas travels to Israel and, mirabile dictu, gets a job working in a cafe owned by Oren’s widow, where his baking improves her business, while his restrained personality seduces her into finding him an emotional crutch for her grief and sexual frustration. Need I tell you that he’s also great with her troubled son and soon has him decorating cookies with artistic elan.
It takes a long, long time for Anat, the widow, to catch on to who Thomas is, even though we eventually learn that her husband had confided his dual life and love to her and all the signs are obvious, even to Oren’s mother , a woman so religious that she wears her hat inside her own home while she’s cooking Viewers will see Anat pore through a box full of Oren’s belongings, evidence that even a not-so smart wife would have understood, but it’s not until she finds a shopping list much later that she has her “aha” moment and races to re-open the box.
Despite the infuriating need to politicize the influence of the ultra-orthodox minority, the movie has redeeming moments, particularly in the performance of Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) and the scene stealing of Sandra Sade as Oren’s mother Sarah Adler who plays Anat, resembles a very plain Charlotte Gainsbourg while in Israel, but when she at last reaches Berlin, we see that she has applied lipstick as a sign of her rejuvenated life in a city where anti-semitism and Nazi activity have resurfaced at an alarming rate. Naturally, that last bit of information is not included in this slanted political fairy tale.
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