Melodrama with a real edge
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN/AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE Directed by Fatih Akin. Starring Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz, Nursel Kose, Nurgül Yesilcay, Hanna Schygulla Club, Queen’s, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 115 min
HEAD-ON, the last dramatic feature from Fatih Akin, gained quite a following on its release three years ago. The film did a good job of mapping certain connections between Germany’s Turkish community and the old country, but, to me, it seemed a tad hysterical and immature in its cultural references.
Akin’s latest picture revisits many of the themes and situations of Head-On. Once again a tragedy causes a principal character to relocate from Germany to Turkey. As before, the picture suggests the type of uneasy accommodation that might be reached between superficially incompatible cultures.
The Edge of Heaven is, however, a much more accomplished picture than Head-On. Despite a dazzlingly intricate plot, whose swift shifts of location might give Robert Ludlum pause for thought, the picture never seems contrived or schematic. We are offered a delicious soap opera, a gripping thriller and an incisive burst of social commentary.
The various plots of The Edge of Heaven – does that Englishlanguage title nod towards Douglas Sirk’s super-soap All That Heaven Allows? – are kicked off by the peculiar decision of Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), an elderly Turkish immigrant, to hire a local prostitute as a sort of maid-cum-consort.
During an argument, Ali causes the woman’s death and is sent to prison. Latent guilt spurs Nejat (Baki Davrak), the old man’s son, to head for Istanbul to track down the dead woman’s daughter.
It transpires that the girl, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay), is a political radical who, following her involvement in a violent disturbance, has been forced to flee to Germany. While Nejat pads around Istanbul looking for Ayten, she spends her days trying to find the mother she believes works in a Bremen shoe shop. Eventually she meets a young German girl (Patrycia Ziolkowska), and they embark on a romantic relationship. More tragedies are to follow.
As you may have gathered, there is a lot going on in The Edge of Heaven. But Akin is a very organised storyteller and, nimble on his feet, he never dawdles long enough to encourage audiences to question the accumulating coincidences.
Buoyed up by consistently strong performances and graced with slick production values, the film confirms the confident advance of modern German cinema.
Cultural exchange: Nurgül Yesilçay and Patrycia Ziolkowska in The Edge of Heaven