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Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Other Sections:
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast

Go to the Learning Guide for this film.

Additional Discussion Questions

Note that all well-reasoned responses are acceptable.

6.   Do you live in a right relation with the world? Describe the reasons for your answer and if you do not live in a right relation with the world, describe what you need to do to be able to "walk on water".

7.   Why did Axel kill his grandfather before the old war criminal died of natural causes? After all, the grandfather didn't have much time left. Suggested Response: There are several possible and overlapping motivations: to establish Axel's independence from the dark past of his family; to erase a barrier between himself and other well-meaning people in the world; to help Eyal by killing the old man so that Eyal didn't have to do it; and to stand up against the people who would have murdered him and other homosexuals had they been in power. In the metaphorical system of this film, Axel killed his war criminal grandfather to keep himself pure so that he could live in a right relation with the world so that his life would be a miracle and he could "walk on water".

8.   When confronted with his grandfather's presence in his parents' home, there was something that Axel could have done, that he probably should have done, instead of killing the old man. What was it and what are the arguments suggesting that it might have been a better resolution for Axel? Suggested Response: Axel could have informed the German authorities and let them handle the situation. The modern-day German police will prosecute war criminals. This would have been better a better result on two levels. First, revenge is not for individuals, it is for the state. See Learning Guide to Hamlet. Second, it would have been a more complete rejection of his family's Nazi past because Axel's father and mother might have been prosecuted for concealing a criminal. It's not easy to see one's own family members punished for their crimes, but the mother and father had aligned themselves with the Nazi past. They were guilty and should have paid the price. 9.   Axel can also be seen as a symbol for the youth of Germany. What is the message of that symbolism? Suggested Response: That the way to live down the history of the Holocaust is to separate themselves from it and reject it.

10.   What may explain Pia's reason for leaving Germany, abandoning her family, and living on a kibbutz in Israel? Suggested Response: It seems clear that Pia cannot live with her family's connection to Hitler's policies in World War II. Some may suggest that it is her way to rebel. Others may suggest that it is her way to atone. If she was looking just to distance herself from her family, she could have gone to many places other than Israel. In the extended metaphor of the film, she was purifying herself so that she could be in a right relation with the world and live the miracle of life, i.e., "walk on water".

11.   Why was it important for Eyal's supervisor, Menachem, to have Axel's grandfather killed before the old Nazi died of natural causes? Suggested Response: There are several possible and probably overlapping motivations, including revenge and a need to see justice done.

12.   What is the importance of the scene in which Eyal defends Axel and his gay and transvestite friends. Suggested Response: It is a turning point in the development of Eyal's character; he has abandoned his old homophobic position which he could not maintain in the face of his feelings of friendship for Axel. Eyal now sees Axel as another human being rather than just a homosexual. This incident shows that having come to know Axel, Eyal could no longer deny the humanity of Axel and his rather strange friends.

13.   It is only after Menachem gives Eyal the poison to kill Axel's grandfather that Eyal learns that Menachem has sent him on a rogue operation to kill the old Nazi as a matter of personal revenge. Did Menachem have a right to take revenge on the man who had murdered many people, including members of Menachem's family? Explain your position. Suggested Response: Menachem should have reported the presence of the war criminal to the German authorities who would have tried him or, as Eyal suggested, Menachem should have taken the war criminal back to Israel for trial. While it is understandable that Menachem would want the satisfaction of killing the man, in civilized societies revenge is for the state. See Learning Guide to Hamlet.

14.   When Pia told Axel that she had discovered that their parents were helping to shelter their grandfather, a war criminal, what was Axel's reaction and how did that differ from Pia's reaction. Suggested Response: Axel's reaction was to confront his family, which he did through bringing an Israeli to the birthday party, having the guests and his father perform an Israeli folk dance, and then killing the old man. Pia's reaction was to leave Germany and live in Israel.

See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions


1.  What role did the fact that Axel was gay play in the plot of the film? Would the movie have worked better if he had been straight? Suggested Response: Being gay gave the character of Axel a vulnerability so that the audience could readily understand why he could have turned against his family's association with Nazism. A strong argument could be made that as a movie about German/Israeli reconciliation, the film would have worked better if Axel had been straight, because Axel's homosexuality distracts from that theme. Any child of Axel's family should have turned against its association with Nazism; which is exactly what Pia did. However, Axel's homosexuality was a key to another important theme of the movie (acceptance of homosexuals) and one of the central ironies of the film (Axel the gay teacher of young children was emotionally stronger than Eyal the hardened Mossad assassin). Axel being gay was also helpful setting up both the interaction with the Palestinian and the subway tunnel incident both of which advanced plot and character development.

2.   What, if anything, does this movie have to say about homosexuality? Suggested Response: It shows that homosexuals are not "the other". They are people with the full range of human interests and passions; they are not defined only by their homosexuality. Axel's way of living in a right relation with the world dealt with more than the fact of his sexual orientation, it required him to completely sever all ties with his family's Nazi past by killing his war-criminal grandfather. It required him to help his friend Eyal who was suffering an emotional breakdown.


3.   Both Eyal and Axel broke out of the life style that they had grown up with and lived for years. Describe what they broke out of and how they did it. Suggested Response: Eyal broke out of the role of hardened assassin. He stopped killing and started feeling. Axel broke away from the Nazi associations of his family and broke with his mother and father by killing his grandfather.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
(TeachWithMovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner"
and  uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical


(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

1.   What did Axel do for his friend Eyal? Suggested Response: He relieved Eyal from the duty of killing the old Nazi and comforted Eyal when the Mossad agent was able to feel his losses and broke down crying.

See also Discussion Questions which Explore Ethical Issues Raised by Any Film.

Links to the Internet:

Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

Selected Awards: 2004 Israeli Film Academy Awards: Won: Best Music and Best Sound; Nominated: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Lior Ashkenazi), Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.

Featured Actors: Lior Ashkenazi as Eyal; Knut Berger as Axel Himmelman; Caroline Peters as Pia Himmelman; Gideon Shemer as Menachem (as Gidon Shemer); Carola Regnier as Axel's Mother; Hanns Zischler as Axel's Father; Ernest Lenart as Alfred Himmelman; Yousef 'Joe' Sweid as Rafik.

Director: Eytan Fox

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