This German-Israeli coproduction opens with a seduction. After buying his favorite cookies from Thomas, the “cakemaker” of the title, Oren, an Israeli businessman who frequently travels to Berlin, makes a pass at Thomas, and it works. Although a married man, Oren starts a weekend-a-month fling with Thomas; and the two men are falling in love. They keep in touch by telephone, until Oren stops answering. Eventually Thomas learns that his lover has died in a car crash. Shocked by the news, Thomas closes the bakery and heads to Jerusalem to look for Oren’s widow, Anat, whom he finds running her own café. He asks if she has a job opening; she hires him to wash dishes.
What makes this movie fascinating is the sticky situation that Thomas has gotten himself into in Jerusalem, possibly with the best of intentions. In flashbacks, we learn that while making love to Oren he would ask how Oren made love to his wife, and Thomas would perform these same acts upon his lover. Later, when Thomas is seduced by Anat—against his better judgment and his sexual orientation—he gets through it by imagining that he’s having sex with her husband. Part of the film’s mystique is Thomas’ reticent nature: he is not one to talk about his feelings or motives (and in Jerusalem, of all places!). Indeed the initial decision to go to Jerusalem and find Anat remains a central mystery. Did he go as an angel of mercy, to help a widow in distress? Or was he trying to assuage some sense of guilt he felt over his part in the deception? Or did he harbor some crazy idea, however unconsciously, that being close to Anat could serve as a surrogate for his lost lover?
Another element of the Cakemaker’s success is the lead actor, Tim Kalkhof, who manages to give this taciturn gay man an impressive emotional complexity through facial expressiveness alone. No matinee idol, Kalkhof might at first seem a surprising choice for the leading role, until you realize that this guy is running on pure acting horsepower.
This film was shown at the Provincetown International Film Festival in June.