The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite) (2007)
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|Movie Review by Jarrod |
August 13th, 2008
'The Edge of Heaven' is a sobering drama that echoes a string of films, from Babel, to works from Polish master Kieslowski, even to Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, which dealt with the relationship between a German woman and a younger Moroccan man. This is a movie about redemption, but it also addresses the issue of multiculturalism, and how the demographics of Germany have changed considerably over the last few decades, with an influx of Muslim immigrants, from Turkey and elsewhere.
Director Fatih Akin is a German citizen of Turkish descent, and so has an interest in studying the problems that confront this particular subset of the population. He weaves a compelling tale that never feels convoluted, his characters always remain fresh and engaging, his dialogue is forceful and insightful. Ali (Runcel Kurtiz) is a Turkish widower, smitten with Yeter (Nusel Kose), the hooker he frequently visits. He offers her a chance to move in with him, and give up prostitution; she accepts after being harassed by some Muslims, who insist that Yeter must repent ; her lifestyle defies the moral teachings of Islam, and without repentance, she could face harsh punishment. Ali's son Nejat (Baki Davrak) initially disapproves of Yeter, but they have a heartfelt conversation one night when Ali has passed out from excessive drinking.
Yeter has a daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcy), back in Istanbul; she is a political activist currently hunted by the police, regarded as a terrorist by the government because she opposes many of its policies. She is also against Turkey joining the EU, which she sees as a violation of Turkish sovereignty, and perhaps merely does not think that Turkey belongs in an organization whose other members are all white, predominantly Christian, European nations. Turkey really is not a part of Europe, as France argued, and there is bad blood and history between Europe and Turkey, especially from the days of the Ottoman Empire, which fought numerous wars with Russia for territory in Central Asia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.
Ayten believes she represents the will of the Turkish people, and that the government is an authoritarian entity that is steadily cracking down on personal freedoms and individual liberty. She flees to Germany to search for her mother; this means that she enters Germany illegally, and given her status as a fugitive, she is bound to be deported if the she exercises even the slightest indiscretion. She befriends an idealistic student named Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) and they become lesbian lovers, though this romance is opposed by Lotte's conservative mother, Susanne (iconic German actress Hanna Schygulla).
When Ayten is deported, Lotte follows her back to Turkey, where she is caught up in a hopeless campaign to free her. The story is divided up into three separate chapters, two of which have revealing titles that spoil events that one might otherwise not expect to occur. Some things are going to end tragically for certain characters. Akin messes around with chronology, using flashbacks as the primary storytelling device, in addition to jumping back and forth between geographic settings.
Akin focuses on themes that are pertinent after 9/11, the racial profiling of Muslims, for instance, with those who broadly categorize them all as a threat, rather than differentiating between extremists and practitioners of a more peaceful Islam. He also explores the inflammatory views on immigration; Muslim immigrants have settled not only in Germany, but in Russia, France, England, and Italy, leading to religious and ethnic tension. Akin is striving for a message of hope and reconciliation, particularly when it comes to Muslims in Germany.
Strong performances abound throughout, most notable of all is Yesilcy, as the volatile, energetic, and committed Ayten. Davrak is also very good. Ayten's affair with Lotte meets with disapproval from Susanne, who represents conservative elements of society (the same elements that tend to espouse racism and xenophobia), and could be seen as a microcosm for Islamic society, where homosexuality is regarded with scorn, as one of the gravest of sins and taboos. Akin appears to be an advocate for change in prevailing attitudes.
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