Happiness within reach
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
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