Hap­pi­ness within reach

David Stratton

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

FATIH Akin, who was born in Ham­burg into a fam­ily of Turk­ish mi­grants, came to promi­nence as a di­rec­tor of tal­ent when he won the Golden Bear at Ber­lin in 2003 for Head- On, a film that re­veal­ingly and un­com­pro­mis­ingly de­picted the clash be­tween tra­di­tion­al­ism and moder­nity in the Turk­ish di­as­pora.

His new film, The Edge of Heaven , which won the award for best screen­play in an un­usu­ally strong com­pe­ti­tion in Cannes last year, is even bet­ter. It’s the work of a cul­tured, in­tel­li­gent Euro­pean who is nev­er­the­less very much alert to the cus­toms and tra­di­tions of his par­ents’ na­tive coun­try, and the story he tells, which is ul­ti­mately a pro­foundly mov­ing one, is as rel­e­vant as it is riv­et­ing.

The nar­ra­tive, which is di­vided into three seg­ments, con­cen­trates on six prin­ci­pal char­ac­ters, two of them Ger­man ( a mother and her daugh­ter) and the rest Turk­ish. In the first sec­tion, which is ti­tled The Death of Yeter, we meet Ali, played by the vet­eran Turk­ish ac­tor Tun­cel Kur­tiz, a lonely wi­d­ower who lives in the Ger­man city of Bre­men. He oc­ca­sion­ally hires a pros­ti­tute and he favours Yeter ( Nursel Kose), a Turk­ish wo­man whose 27- year- old daugh­ter, Ayten ( Nur­gul Ye­sil­gay), still liv­ing back in Turkey, thinks her mother works as an as­sis­tant

The Edge of Heaven ( Auf der An­deren Seite) ( M)

Street Kings ( MA15+)

Lim­ited na­tional re­lease from April 24

Na­tional re­lease

in a shoe shop. Yeter is be­ing threat­ened by Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ists who, un­sur­pris­ingly, ob­ject to her lifestyle. So when Ali sug­gests that she move in with him and that he will pay her enough money to cover what she might have earned oth­er­wise, she agrees.

Mean­while, Ayten, who is a mem­ber of a rad­i­cal po­lit­i­cal group in Turkey, is on the run from the po­lice. She man­ages to es­cape the coun­try and ar­rives in Bre­men look­ing for her mother; in one mag­i­cal mo­ment the paths of mother and daugh­ter al­most cross, but they fail to see one an­other. Ayten meets Lotte ( Pa­trycia Zi­olkowska), a stu­dent, and moves into the Ger­man girl’s room in the home of her mid­dle­class mother, Su­sanne ( Hanna Schygulla). The other prin­ci­pal char­ac­ter is Ne­jat ( Baki Davrak), Ali’s son, who de­cides to re­turn to Turkey from Ger­many and who will play a key role in the lives of some of th­ese peo­ple.

Since, fore­warned by the seg­ment ti­tle, we know from the start that Yeter will die, there’s an un­set­tling edgi­ness to the first part of the film, which is com­pounded when the ti­tle of the sec­ond seg­ment fore­shad­ows the death of an­other char­ac­ter. The third ti­tle, From the Other Side, is the Ger­man ti­tle of the film.

It’s not hard to see why the Cannes jury re­warded Akin’s screen­play, which is a model of its kind. The writer- di­rec­tor even man­ages to make a cou­ple of co­in­ci­dences feel pre­cisely right, so beau­ti­fully struc­tured is this film. The themes are uni­ver­sal: it’s about par­ents and chil­dren ( two moth­ers and two daugh­ters, one fa­ther and a son) and about the deceptions, mis­un­der­stand­ings and missed con­nec­tions that sep­a­rate loved ones from each other.

Just as he used tra­di­tional Turk­ish mu­sic in Head- On , so Akin starts and fin­ishes this film with se­quences pho­tographed dur­ing a bayram , which is a fes­ti­val that tran­scends re­li­gious or na­tional con­sid­er­a­tions. With de­cep­tive skill, the young ( only 34) writer- di­rec­tor jug­gles the in­tri­cate el­e­ments of this drama like pieces on a chess­board, ef­fort­lessly mov­ing back and forth be­tween Ger­man and Turk­ish lo­ca­tions and con­cerns. His film is deeply felt, com­pas­sion­ate and, in the end, op­ti­mistic that the seem­ingly un­bridge­able gulfs that sep­a­rate na­tions and fam­i­lies can be re­solved. JAMES Ell­roy has been writ­ing colour­ful, cyn­i­cal nov­els about crime and cor­rup­tion for many years now, and he pro­vided the story, and con­trib­uted to the screen­play, for Street Kings , in which Keanu Reeves plays a racist killer- cop who mur­ders sus­pects and then makes it look as if he killed them in self- defence; and he’s the film’s hero. The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for this is that, first, the crim­i­nals are ex­tremely nasty and must be stopped, and sec­ond, there are other cops in the force even more cor­rupt than he is, so by com­par­i­son he’s com­mend­able.

It’s a strange and I would have thought in­sup­port­able ar­gu­ment. Will au­di­ences cheer when Reeves kills an un­armed and man­a­cled bad guy, or will they be ap­palled? Sadly, the film is pitched in such a way as to make the for­mer more likely ( in stark con­trast to an­other con­tem­po­rary crime film, Gone Baby Gone, in which the moral ar­gu­ments are far more com­plex and in­ter­est­ing).

Street Kings ( one hopes the ti­tle is ironic) is very slickly made in the best tra­di­tion of this sort of ul­tra- tough, ul­tra- vi­o­lent school. The di­rec­tor, Tony Ayer, wrote the screen­play for Train­ing Day , an­other rugged look at the dark side of LA’s finest, and on his cho­sen level he does a highly ef­fi­cient job.

Reeves plays, with steely in­ten­sity, a char­ac­ter called Tom Lud­low, a vice squad cop who ap­pears to break the law ev­ery minute of his work­ing day. His ex- part­ner Wash­ing­ton ( Terry Crews) has dobbed him in to In­ter­nal Af­fairs and an IA in­ves­ti­ga­tor, James Biggs ( a se­ri­ously mis­cast Hugh Lau­rie), is on his trail. But Lud­low has the full and ad­mir­ing sup­port of his boss, Jack Wan­der ( For­est Whi­taker). Af­ter all, by killing all the sus­pects in­stead of ar­rest­ing them you save on all those pesky le­gal niceties.

When Wash­ing­ton is gunned down dur­ing an armed raid, Lud­low just hap­pens to be present. Was the killing of the in­former co­in­ci­den­tal? Lud­low teams up with the case in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Diskant ( Chris Evans), to dis­cover who killed his for­mer part­ner, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that ( not sur­pris­ingly) leads him in un­com­fort­able, not to say dan­ger­ous, di­rec­tions.

You won­der what sort of ef­fect a ni­hilis­tic film such as this, in which just about ev­ery po­lice of­fi­cer flouts the law and most are sadis­tic killers into the bar­gain, will have on hon­est Amer­i­can law en­forcers. Those con­cerns are not ap­par­ent any­where in this well made but ex­tremely du­bi­ous ex­er­cise in may­hem.

Turk­ish de­light: Tun­cel Kur­tiz and Nursel Kose in Fatih Akin’s ac­claimed film The Edge of Heaven

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