Shortly after Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) serves Oren (Roy Miller) a slice of his Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, they’re upstairs taking each other’s clothes off. Ofir Raul Graizer, who directed The Cakemaker, invests Thomas’ baking skills and that Black Forest cake with the power to seduce and enchant. Juliette Binoche had similar culinary powers in Chocolat (2000), as did Lumi Cavazos in Like Water for Chocolate (1992). But Thomas isn’t a character in a fable; he runs a bakery in present-day Berlin. When he and Oren, a visiting Israeli businessman, fall in love, there’s only one obstacle standing between them and a future of shared cream-filled cakes — Anat (Sarah Adler), Oren’s wife.
Although Graizer films many close-ups of Thomas kneading dough, decorating cookies, and assembling desserts, he’s as glum as the titular chef in another German kitchen movie, Mostly Martha (2001). Martha’s sister dies in the first few minutes of that film, as Oren does in The Cakemaker. Both films are studies in cooking strategies that help the living cope with grief. Martha finds contentment with an Italian chef who makes a mean spaghetti bolognese. Thomas though is so distraught that he closes up shop, heads to Israel, and tracks down Anat just so he can be near Oren’s ghost. What follows is a cross-cultural exchange of mourning souls and recipes to help them heal.
Opens Friday at Landmark’s Opera Plaza.