Jewish International Film Festival The Cakemaker: A textured recipe

The Cakemaker
The Cakemaker. | © Jewish Film Festival

In ‘The Cakemaker’, a typical travel fantasy comes true, followed by one of life’s inevitable tragedies. Visiting Berlin on business, Israeli Oren (Roy Miller) calls into his favourite patisserie for a piece of cake, finds the chef as tantalising as the baked goods on offer, and swiftly starts a new love affair. Clichéd and unrealistic as the set-up may seem, his bond with German Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) soon settles into genuine affection and a comfortable routine, albeit one complicated by Oren’s other life in Jerusalem. There, he has a wife, Anat (Sarah Adler), and a young son; however, it’s a car accident that ultimately brings his time with Thomas to an end.

Making his feature debut, writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer focuses on the aftermath — not of a chance meeting that sparks a married man’s secret gay romance, but of his two lovers coping with his passing. Though examinations of grief, the secrets unearthed after death and the struggles of those left behind are as frequent screen fodder as amorous holiday meetings, the Israeli filmmaker pairs his familiar situations a raft of thoughtful contemplations about sexuality, nationality and religion. Taking a standard recipe, he adds his own flavoursome ingredients.

'The Cakemaker' is writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer feature debut. 'The Cakemaker' is writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer feature debut. | © Jewish Film Festival Left wondering for months before discovering Oren’s fate, and driven to track down his family as a result, Thomas heads to Jerusalem in search of solace. Given the intricacies of his profession — compiling and combining various substances, kneading them gently into shape and then waiting as warmth causes a transformation — it’s a natural response. He locates Anat’s cafe, wrangles a job and begins to get to know the woman who also loved the love of his own life. She is unaware of Thomas’ connection to Oren, but slowly embraces his quiet charms and his baking abilities, even if her stern brother-in-law (Zohar Shtrauss) is visibly and vocally unhappy about a German entering her kosher establishment.

A measured and moving film

Obvious in its narrative path but delicate and compassionate in its treatment of the expected, a measured and moving film results as Thomas and Anat’s lives begin to fold together, with the two finding a common consistency despite their dissimilar backgrounds and their unspoken bond. The Cakemaker proves patient and exacting in blending its components, waiting for them to cook and revealing the end product. That applies both to its nuanced performances from the excellent Miller and Adler, and to the long, sensitive gazes it throws their way in between salivating food shots.

Those appetising cakes, cookies and more serve a significant purpose, though, as do the sensual making-of scenes that take viewers into the kitchen. While framing life as a mixing pot of preferences, choices, beliefs, desires and cultures might seem heavy-handed, it works not only as a metaphor for the situation at hand, but as a reminder of inclusivity, openness and harmony in a world that’s becoming increasingly splintered. Still, Graizer is restrained yet tender in making his point clear; seeing the joy and catharsis both baking and baked goods bring in their mélange of ingredients has the desired impact. The film doesn’t shy away from musing over Thomas and Anat’s many differences, but doesn’t labour them either — that fluidity and diversity exist, and should, is a given, as is the fact that the two could have a relationship with the same man, and that love, life and happiness transcend a plethora of divisions.