on December 17, 2008
Instead of a clunky description of the story, here are two examples of masterful filmmaking from this amazing film.
Example #1: The iconic German actress Hanna Schygulla plays the aged mother of one of the main characters. Her daughter, a German university student with an idealistic streak, brings a Turkish woman whom she has just met, to stay in their house. The daughter wants to help the Turkish woman, who is homeless and an illegal immigrant. The mother seems to project quiet disapproval and warns the daughter about harboring an illegal alien. In this manner, the film makes the viewer think he or she is seeing a contrast between the staid mother and the bohemian rebellious daughter.
Later, however, the film reveals that this staid mother is not who the viewer has come to think she is. In her youth, she was also a free spirit and a bit of a bohemian who hitchhiked to India. She shows herself to be someone so different than who she seemed to be.
Thus, the viewer's very perception is challenged and this character is revealed to be complex and truly human and not the "type" that the viewer has pegged her to be. In other words, the film challenges and undermines the viewers' perception to provide true insight.
Example #2: The opening scene of the film is of a car driving into a gas station in rural Turkey. A man gets out of the car, asks the gas station attendant to fill it up, then goes inside to the little convenience store, where he buys some snacks and exchanges small talk with the shopkeeper about a song that is playing on the radio. The shopkeeper says the singer is from the region but died of cancer due to fallout from Chernobyl that's only revealing itself to the public now. The man pays for his stuff and the scene ends. It's a two-minute scene. No tension. No conflict. No nothing. Completely mundane. Something that could happen to anyone.
Ninety-minutes of the film later, the same scene is replayed in exactly the same form. No changes. But the film has revealed the events that have led up to this man's setting foot in that gas station. It's the same scene. The same two minutes. But now, it's filled with tension, true pathos, and an abundance of meaning.
Again, this is an example where the film shows us something, makes us think we see it, only to reveal that what we think we're seeing is not so. It challenges the expectations and perception of the viewer. It makes us see with new eyes.
on August 19, 2008
The emotional impact of this bleak cinema will not need enhancement, and the "story" is intentionally predictable from about minute 15 to the end. What I want to address is the "intellectual" content, since I think this is a film with fairly explicit intellectual aspirations -- in other words, a movie that makes a statement about life.
Coincidental relationships and chance encounters frame nearly every action/event of this film. Nothing that happens is inevitable or dramatically "necessary", yet everything is contingent on random intersections of people and places that another film-maker might perceive as fateful or predestined. Yet equally possible coincidences and indeed encounters that "we" are set up to expect don't occur as expected. Coincidence is no more powerful than non-coincidence; contingency is awkwardly random in the film-maker's vision of life, and resolution is utterly illusory. Perhaps only a Turk, or another person raised in a culture of religious predeterminism, could offer such insights into the linear inconsequentiality of existence -- "just one d_mn thing after another."
The Edge of Heaven is also a painful depiction of alienation -- the alienation of 'guestworker" Turks in Germany, of political dissidence, and of generational conflict, a father-son and a mother-daughter, the former Turks and the latter Germans. This isn't the core of the movie so much as the substrate in which the character development takes place.
Wonderful acting! Especially from Hanna Schygulla, who plays the German mother so plausibly that you will hardly remember her as the star of German "art" films of yesteryear. Any time an actor/actress is unrecognizable, that's art!
Definitely a movie that you will leave feeling less ebullient than when you arrived; the reward is emotional insight rather than entertainment. It reminded me a good deal of Babel, though it's more modest and perhaps more real. If you appreciated Babel, you will surely relish Edge of Heaven.
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE) is a superb piece of writing by writer/director Fatih Akin - a study essentially about family fragility and strength as heightened by the immigrant struggles that both bond and divide. It is an intelligent film, well acted, and presented in a challenging manner that defines it as an art film of the first order.
We are given three families to inspect, families whose paths cross not only by coincidence by also by a common 'border' between Germany and Turkey - a division that provides not only tension and emphasis in separation and communication flaws in relationships, but also allows the sensitive cinematographer the opportunity to contrast the dark German portions with the hot light of the Turkish segments.
The film opens innocently enough with a scene where young professor Nejat (Baki Davrak), a Turkish immigrant teaching in Germany, stops for gas - an ordinary event in life that will be recapitulated at movie's close. Nejat's elderly father Ali Aksu (Yuncel Kurtiz) wanders the red light district and encounters a Turkish immigrant hooker Yeter (Nusel Kose) whom he invites to come live with him for the same money that she would make in prostitution. The home setting (Nejat, Ali, Yeter) is flawed and at the moment of dissolution Yeter dies accidentally during an altercation with Ali. Ali is jailed and Nejat feels compelled to go to Istanbul to find and assist Yeter's daughter. Meanwhile Yeter's daughter Ayten (Nurgut Yesilcay) is participating in anti government demonstrations and manages to flee to Germany to find her mother and is befriended by Lotte (Patrycia Ziokowska), a student whose mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla) disapproves of Lotte's relationship with Ayten. Ayten is forced to flee to Istanbul, Lotte follows and tragedy occurs. In a manner of twists and turns and fast-forwards and reflective moments the three families (Nejat/Ali, Yeter/Ayten, and Susanne/Lotte) intersect, always propelled by the need for acceptance and love and succor.
The levels of interpretation are many and writer/director Fatih Akin serves them well. The superb cinematography is in the masterful hands of Rainer Klausmann and the musical score is enhanced by recordings of a late Turkish artist as integrated by composer Shantel . This is a stunning, fast paced, emotionally involving film filled with pleas of understanding of many problems that daily call for our attention. In Turkish, German an English with subtitles. Grady Harp, October 08
on January 24, 2009
Making symmetry of form out of seemingly random events, the Turkish-German co-production entitled "The Edge of Heaven" is a complex and beautifully realized human drama built on a series of carefully worked-out interlocking coincidences and parallel events. The movie, written and directed by Fatih Akin, begins when an old Turkish man living in Germany accidental kills a prostitute he has paid to come and live with him. As a means of atonement, the man's guilt-ridden son, a language professor at a German university, journeys to Istanbul to find the woman's daughter and offer her assistance in financing her college education. Unbeknownst to him, the daughter is a member of a "radical" political group that the Turkish government has decreed to be a terrorist organization. The plot becomes increasingly complicated as it continually wanders off onto unexpected pathways, introducing new and fascinating characters at each turn, and finally coming full circle around on itself at the end. Suffice it to say, there are two unexpected murders, two sets of mothers and daughters, three pairs of parents and children, and two young ladies of a more than kindred spirit that become part of the finely woven tapestry of this film.
One of the primary virtues of "The Edge of Heaven" is that it doesn't feel compelled to follow any kind of standard storytelling arc just to please its audience. It spends a certain amount of time with one set of characters, then moves on to another set, not concerned if we don't get all the connections right off the bat. Major characters become minor ones, and minor ones major as the movie advances through its storyline. Yet, perhaps that is a misleading way of putting it, for, in this movie, no one can ever be a truly "minor" player - for the film is based on the premise that even the most seemingly random, inconsequential event can set off a chain reaction of future events, all leading to major, sometimes devastating and certainly unforeseeable consequences for the people involved. This lack of a conventional narrative purges the movie of contrivance, even when the characters keep crossing paths with one another in ways that would normally place a strain on our credulity. Here, however, thanks to the naturalism in both the performances and the direction, this small-world pattern feels ever so right.
Filled with beautiful, heartfelt performances, "The Edge of Heaven" presents its tale of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation in a form that is wholly unique and quietly spellbinding. As with a beautiful pointillist painting, the movie reveals its full picture only after we have stood far enough back from it to be able to view it in its entirety. And what a beautiful picture it turns out to be.
"The Edge of Heaven" is a literally cross-cultural story that hinges on crossed paths between its German and Turkish characters. Deft handling of complexity and coincidence won writer/director Fatih Akin a host of awards in Europe, including Best Screenplay at Cannes, Best Direction at the German Film Awards, and Best Foreign Film at France's Cesars. Ali Aksu (Tuncel Kurtiz), a retired Turkish immigrant in Germany, invites a prostitute named Yeter (Nusel Kose), also a Turkish immigrant, to live with him. Ali's college professor son Nejat (Baki Davrak) is surprised by the arrangement but fond of Yeter. When Yeter dies, Nejat visits Turkey to find her grown daughter Ayten (Nurgut Yesilcay) with the intention of paying for her education. But Ayten's radical political activity have already compelled her to leave Turkey to seek her mother in Germany.
The film's division into four parts, only the last of which is entirely chronological, creates an interesting symmetry. The two central parts address Ali and Yeter's relationship and Ayten's relationship with a sympathetic German university student named Lotte (Patrycia Ziokowska), respectively. Two couples. But the brief opening sequence feels superfluous, as if it has been added only to balance the end of the film. Apart from that, this oddly structured film seems natural even though it relies heavily on coincidences. Two generations cross paths as well as two cultures: What Ali, Yeter, and Lotte's mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla) want for their children is slyly compared to what Nejat, Ayten, and Lotte want for themselves. "Edge of Heaven" feels like a carefully crafted European character drama with a welcome helping of grit. In German, Turkish, and English with subtitles.
The DVD (Strand Releasing 2008): Bonus features are a theatrical trailer (1 1/2 min) and a documentary entitled "The Making of The Edge of Heaven" (56 min), which is too long but includes behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with director Fatih Akin. He discusses story, themes, cast, the script, rehearsing, and directing the film. The cast makes some brief appearances. The documentary is in German with English subtitles. The English subtitles for the documentary and for the film cannot be turned off.
The most remarkable part of Edge of Heaven for this reviewer, is the camera work. It is the rare film in the past 30 years that includes absolute ROCK steady camera work. The film opens with one of the most beautiful tracking shots at a gas station that harkens back to Orsen Welles' perfection in camera movement in The Magnificent Ambersons and Citizen Kane.
The framing in every single shot is perfection. Lotte, in the chapter, Lotte Dies, is shown up close in a single shot talking on the phone with her mother. The framing is close to her, and gives no hint to where she is sitting. The conversation starts friendly and nicely with her mother. The camera begins to move back to reveal more and more of where Lotte is sitting. As this happens, her mother starts to say that Lotte is on her own. As she slams the phone down, the viewer realizes Lotte is sitting in a cramped phone booth, and ultimately looks imprisoned in her surroundings. The viewer knows she is going to die, it's clear that this moment is the turning point.
This film could serve as a semester course in film study. The richness and perfections of the framing, camera movement, story line, editing is incredible. Place this against a backdrop of politics, love, family, happenstance, and this is a formula for a classic masterpiece. Although this will never be an important film in cinema history, it is one for film students to understand and use.
The story is told in three acts, The Death of Yeter, The Death of Lotte, and The Edge of Heaven. Each is virtually a short story of it's own, almost stand as individual films. However, each is bound by, what at first, appear to be happenstance. The director has woven these subtle moments that make complete sense later in the film. Each story overlaps from a timeline viewpoint. The second act starts before the first act ends in strict linear time.
Much has been written about the political aspect of this film. Frankly that all seems to be a red herring to this reviewer. This is a film more like Lelouch's A Man and A Woman, where seemingly random events happen that drive the story toward it's logical conclusion. Politics is simply a pretext, or another of those random events.
A very well told story. Supported by incredibly cinematography. Editing that is spot on. Characters that are so believable that the viewer knows them well by the end of the film. Focus that is perfect in every single shot. A rare film today. Camera movement and production that means something.
This is not a film for everyone. It's an art film, it is not pure simple entertainment. It requires a certain level of thinking and careful watching to fully appreciate. For the person willing to pay attention and think, this is a hugely rewarding film.
This would be an R rated film if the MPAA rated it. There is absolutely no nudity, however the film opens with a very mature subject matter, prostitution and a man asking and receiving. The moment is probably the farthest in the world from being purile, no act is ever shown. This moment could not be changed, it is critical to the story. There is some violence, and a bit of strong language. Again, all perfectly constructed and with reason.
Edge of Heaven really harkens back to the art house film of the 70's and early 80's. But this is a modern perfectly done film. Anyone that is a student of film, or loves film for film sake will adore this film. It represents all that can be good in film.
on November 6, 2008
The Edge of Heaven, to give you it's correct title, is a film that has received a lot of attention from worldwide film buffs. What you have here is a film that explores identity in a world in which realisations come much too late but, God willing, come.
There are several characters in the film whose stories interconnect and whose lives directly or indirectly affect one another's. The German professor, his father, his father's girlfriend, his father's girlfriend's daughter, his father's girlfriend's daughter's girlfriend...you see where this is going, a domino-like effect in narration which builds up throughout the film.
The Edge of Heaven does not attempt to bash you over the head with its meaning. It takes its time to show you, to move you, and its cinematography is never anything less than beautiful. The actors do a good job (although the Turkish girl is slightly grating) and my personal favourite is the old man: bitter, independent and very much alive.
Comes highly recommended.
on December 30, 2012
I think the other reviewers have justifably praised this film so i'm not going to give a detailed review. Just want to give my contribution to the brilliance of this film. I rate this over the more acclaimed 'head on'.
Great acting, great drama and shocking unexpected moments. Love the very quiet and beautiful scene at the end that is basically one long still shot that gives the audience time to reflect and reel back from the emotion this film creates. This scene thankfully depicts a positive ending, of sorts, in a film that does have a lot of tragedy.
Just be prepared for a very powerful movie. Kind of like the feeling you get after watching movies like 'The Killing Fields' or 'Shooting Dogs'. Conequently give yourself the time and space to watch this without being disturbed and certainly in one go, to really appreciate it. I wouldn't recommend this to those that can't deal with tragedy and loss but for all those that feel a sense of appreciation for telling such a story, enjoy!!
on August 18, 2008
A first-rate flick! Fabulous story, powerful interplay between the six leads, intriguing mode of unfolding coincidental parallel and near parallel paths. All the more tellingly resonant for me having recently travelled from Istanbul through Trabazon(where the film concludes)amd like the grieving German mum, had been in the place 30 years before. Of course, the soundtrack grabs by the chest fibres and cools them after they've been rent by the tragedy we witness. Wonderful moment of awakened compassion from the aforesaid mum, in Istanbul when she opens her heart to the younger Turkish woman. Reconciliation of the deepest kind is possible. This is real and painful and lovingly conveyed. A must see.
There are a lot of films nowadays that use this fragmented interwoven storytelling structure. Some of those films really work, and others fall flat thanks to misapplied similarities and lack of depth in character development. `The Edge of Heaven' is compelling and affecting despite moments that seem too preposterous for their own good. Fatih Akin knows how to wrap this story around itself in a way that builds depth in areas that feel somewhat shallow.
In other words, this is an example of a film working and then again, not working in nearly the same breath.
The film tells three separate stories. One is of a man who is desperately trying to right the wrongs of his father, an elderly drunk who manhandles and accidentally kills a prostitute he tried to pull out of the gutter. Ashamed of his father's actions, this man goes out on a journey to find this dead prostitutes daughter. The second story is of that daughter, a political rebel who manages to escape Germany and is trying to find her mother when she meets and falls into a relationship with the naïve Lotte. Lotte's mother is not happy about this relationship, and she propels the final story, that of a woman attempting to pick up broken pieces of tragedy.
All three of these lives collide in different ways, and yet no one knows of the importance of their union. I found the construction of the film to be a little convoluted in parts and a tad choppy in others, and yet I have a ton of respect for the approach taken to the film's conclusion and mostly that third `story', which is fleshed out beautifully in a few small moments. Overall, `The Edge of Heaven' is sincere enough to work, despite scenario flaws, but the film's opening story feels a bit forced when placed up against the second and third, and the lack of balance when portraying the amount of tragedy in one particular `circle' seemed off kilter at times. It just seems to be trying to say something a little harder than it should.
And yet that final moment on the beach seems like such a marvelous way to conclude such a grisly tale.