English Title: The Edge of Heaven
Original Title: Auf der anderen Seite
Country: Germany, Turkey, Italy
Language: German, Turkish, English
Director/Writer: Fatih Akin
Cinematography: Rainer Klausman
A German filmmaker with Turkish extraction, Fatih Akin’s fifth feature, a Cannes’ BEST SCREENPLAY winner, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN is a Bremen-Istanbul bilateral drama, unfolds in a triptych structure, delineates the vagaries of destiny and incidents impinged upon three parent-offspring pairs: a Turkish professor of German literature Nejat Aksu (Davrak) and his widowed pensioner father Ali (Kurtiz) living in Bremen, the latter, meets a middle-aged Turkish prostitute Yeter (Köse), and decides to pay her to live in with him as his exclusive possession, Yeter misses her daughter Ayten (Yesilçay) in Istanbul, whom she hasn’t been in contact for years and later we will learn that she is now a young anti-government firebrand, the final pair is Lotte (Ziolkowska), a German college student who falls in love with Ayten and her mother Susanne (Schygulla), who doesn’t quite approve of their lesbian romance and Ayten’s radical political stance.
With each of the triptych respectively named as: Yeter’s death, Lotte’s death, and the eponymous The Edge of Heaven, Akin presages the tragedies in the first two segments like a hanging rock, leaving audience hooked by the impending demise, it is a bold move to dispel suspense and foreground the inevitability in its fair-paced narrative which evinces of Akin’s more restrained sobriety over his material and the disparities underlying the two very different countries (both segments opens with protests, one in Bremen, another in Istanbul, their different after-effects tellingly betray Akin’s political inclination). But, what renders wholesome of the film’s slightly fortuity-heavy story is Akin’s reflective and unflinchingly humane dissection of his dramatis personae, they are all the garden-variety type, each tries their best to get hold of their lives in the best possible way, and each is undermined by their foibles, but in its praise of love (Ayten and Lotte’s intense love transcends their different mother tongues), family (Yeter’s death separates Nejat and Ali, whereas Lotte’s death unites Susanne with Ayten), understanding (Susanne’s lofty gesture to the girl who obliquely causes the death of her daughter), and forgiveness (the childhood memory prompts Nejat to look for Ali in the end), that finale really vouches for the film’s title, heaven is not afar in spite of there is turmoil prevalent on the surface, humanity can prevail.
Wonderful performances from the central sextet, in the (borderline) leading part, Davrak emanates an aura of soothing kindness often outdoes what he is required by the script and Turkish name-star Yesilçay mounts a great deal of rawness and bluntness in her de-glamorized commitment, whereas Köse and Ziolkovska, due to their characters’ preordained fate, are the ones to proffer ample sympathy. As for the two veterans, the late Turkish triple-threat Kurtiz trades on a spot-on brazenness of senescent loneliness and obstinacy, and Schygulla, staggeringly holds court as the redeeming soul who gets over from a sad bereavement and carries on with a positive vibe, which is so powerful and contagious, that fly-on-the-wall observation of her wailing in the hotel room is tremendously devastating to watch.
After his astounding one-two punch HEAD-ON (2004) and this, in retrospect, the following decade surprisingly hasn’t panned out as a substantial acclivity for this wunderkind cineaste (he was only 34 at that time) as one might have postulated, his track record after THE EDGE OF HEAVEN is a lukewarm comedy SOUL KITCHEN (2009), an atrocious misfire THE CUT (2014) and his latest GOODBYE BERLIN (2016), almost gets no traction upon its release in the international front. Will Akin find his mojo back? It will be a crying shame if a filmmaker of his credentials cannot achieve something significantly great.
referential points: Fatih Akin’s HEAD-ON (2004) 8.1/10, SOUL KITCHEN (2009) 6.7/10