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European-American Topics - Cinema - The Edge of Heaven

SIFF 2008: The Edge of Heaven
(Turkish title: Yasamin Kiyisinda/ German title: Auf Der Anderen Seite)

Turkey/Germany

2007
Review by Asli Omur
Posted May 26, 2008

    Director Fatih Akin

The German born and Turkish raised director Fatih Akin, best known abroad for his work in Head-On (Duvari Karsi/Gegen Die Wand), is a master storyteller; particularly when it comes to the lives of lost souls immersed in longing and cultural confusion.  

The Edge of Heaven moves between time zones, cities, spaces and countries in a quest for something that it had all along. Set largely against Berlin and Istanbul ghettos, a lush backdrop of the Turkish countryside and a women’s prison the film links people and lives in one heartbeat, turning the entire audience into voyeurs and tourists.  

The Edge of Heaven opens with an elderly Turkish widower with old world sensibility roaming the gritty back streets of Berlin. After a tryst with a local hooker who turns out to be Turkish, too, he later decides to “purchase” her to live with him as a house-help and sexual partner. Her life is the root of the drama. When asked how she has kept her profession a secret from her adult daughter back in Turkey, she says she told her she worked in a shoe shop. “Now and again I send my daughter some shoes,” she says with a restrained giggle in her throat.  

The audience is introduced to a host of accidental heroes, who despite their seemingly different lives are romantically intertwined, and whose identities and truths only come out in the wash. The characters toast to death instead of life with the most uplifting sentiment.  

The heroes include the widower’s son who is a professor of German at the Free University of Berlin. His education has built a wall between him and his simple drunkard father who demands to know who his son is “screwing” at the moment. Then there is the communist revolutionary girl, Ayten. Ayten is on the run for asylum. She is also coming to terms with her burgeoning lesbianism in the arms of a na´ve German student. It’s a relationship whose subtle girlish intimacy triggers scandal, cultural divide and desperation.  And there is the classically European mother who is convinced Ayten’s situation will only improve after Turkey enters the European Union.  

The Edge of Heaven is reminiscent of French cinema in which characters searching for each other always pass right by one another on screen. The reunions remain elusive. An easy familiarity and hints of repentance, never regret, fluctuate between the characters.

 The Edge of Heaven is almost heaven, almost hell with fleeting glimmers of hope and revelation. The delayed emotion and cautious dialogues between the characters lend to several tension building explosive finales that the audience could have never prepared for.  

As it has been Fatih Akin's approach in the past, The Edge of Heaven sparkles and crackles with death, dislocation and humor amidst chaos.

 

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