MOVIE: THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (2008)
DIRECTED BY: FATIH AKIN
CAST: BAKI DAVRAK, TUNCEL KURTIZ, NURSEL KOSE, NURGUL YESCILAY, HANNA SCHYGULLA
The Edge of Heaven is the latest directorial venture of an excitingly modern filmmaker in Fatih Akin (Gegen Die wand a.k.a. Head On) and honestly I don’t know why I would be cutting half a star from the movie’s credits: Maybe it is because I hate him for directing two painfully tragic films contemporarily. Or maybe because in life there cannot be a reason or a valid ending to certain things, which means that the same holds for this question too…
This time writer Akin decides to play with his screenplay, following the path of yet another successful international director in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu (Babel, Amores Perros, 21 grams) as he splits it to three sub-plots or sub-films maybe, and finally reunites the three together to exhibit to us one of the finest pieces of drama ever and maybe even yet to come. But the pain in The Edge of Heaven is that though the sub-units merge to give a complete movie to us, Akin decides it not to be so for the characters he had pitted into the plot: Two mothers, two daughters, a father and a son all paired with perfection as the film moves from Germany to Turkey for good measure making us travel along with the characters on a chase that is literally hopeless for all of them.
Ali Aksu (Kurtiz) kicks off the sub-film called ‘YETER’S DEATH’ as he goes to visit the lady herself, as she waits at the door for him in her brothel. As she speaks at the door, a couple of Turk Muslims hear her speaking Turkish, and she is warned to quit the sinful trade and repent for it. ‘I repent’ says she with gritted teeth clearly showing what ran through her mind. Ali generously offers her money in return for her stay in his house that is also inhabited by his German-professor-son Nejat (Davrak) and though he doesn’t really like the idea of her staying in his house (Well yeah! Who would?!), he still agrees and begins to like her when she tells him she funds her daughter’s studies with the money she gets. And then Yeter’s death is brought about by Ali in a drunken brawl in his son’s absence, after which he shifts to jail and Nejat to Istanbul, where he decides to search for Yeter’s 27 year old daughter and continue to fund for her studies and the movie advances to its second sub-film named ‘LOTTE’S DEATH’ and here we get to find out that Yeter’s daughter Ayten is actually a part of a political rebellion and her bid to escape from Turkey after stashing a little bundle, brings her to Germany and at the doorstep of a woman named Lotte and the very fact that she is truthful to her triggers love between them, much to the displeasure of Lotte’s mother Suzanne (Schygulla) who wants Ayten to rather join the asylum or the European Union. Ayten refuses, as she says, “The Union is in the hands of England, Germany, Spain, France, and these are colonial countries’ and it is at this point that you expect this movie to take a political turn for sure, but you are mistaken because this is one movie you are not supposed to expect anything but experience it.
In fact, every time you start to expect something in this movie, your ideas fail and that starts from the beginning when you expect something close to Akin’s previous brash and uncouth venture; you expect a political movie when Ayten runs around with a gun as part of a rebellion, masked, chased by the cops, but you’re wrong again as you expect a love story somewhere with a hopeless Nejat on a wild-goose chase for Ayten. But the movie wins the guessing game as it ends as a pure drama with the characters returning back to the places where they rightfully ought to be, with the elimination of two of the six characters as the two titles suggest, in the third sub-film aptly named ‘THE EDGE OF HEAVEN’.
‘The Edge of Heaven’ has a plot for no other reason except to unite the characters it introduces and here Akin and Inarittu look like long-lost brothers. The movie stresses upon the characters and their ignorance of what is happening around them that you start to pity them at a point of time because you know more than they do as the director discloses more to you than he does to his characters themselves. The end is anti-climactic to a painful extent and maybe it is at this that Akin succeeds to a great extent. He doesn’t make you weep for his characters, though he makes you sympathize with them: He makes you get to know them, and to get to know the world that we live our lives in because his characters live their lives in it too.
The Edge of Heaven is the least thing close to a re-union: It is a reminder about the tragedy life is and you might be lucky enough to realize how much you are ignoring people close to you that you might suddenly get a rush of blood to drop everything you have in hand and run to embrace those who really love you, much the same way as Nejat hands his book-store over to Suzanne to get to be with his father after a teary-eyed narration of the reason behind the festival of Bayram. And you rush as he rushes because you wouldn’t want your love and care to be showered posthumous on anyone; you wouldn’t want yourself to be as unfortunate as Suzanne is. After you laugh, cry, sympathize and smile at the characters in the end, you come out of the film with some clarity at least regarding the choice of Akin’s title: After all, what is not heaven itself, but something at its edge is definitely a part of the lives we live and the fact of its proximity to heaven tells us that that life is nothing but one with the love one has to have in it…