Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Edge of Heaven **1/2
Director: Fatih Akin
Cast: Baki Davrak, Nurgul Yesilcay, Hanna Schygulla
Tuncel Kurtiz, Patrycia Ziolkowska, Nursel Kose
The entire plot of "The Edge of Heaven" is contained in its first sequence. College professor Nejat Aksu (an efficient Davrak) enters a service station in Turkey where he asks the cashier who is the singer on the radio. He answers and provides Nejat with some pop culture trivia revealing that the singer had died a few years ago, and quite young, from cancer.
"It's all Chernobyl" he adds.
With this statement director Fatih Akin sets in motion an ambitious film that chooses the interconnections of human beings as its axis. Just because we don't know something it doesn't mean it won't affect us. A character later adds that only "God is entitled to solitude" making this interrelationships inevitable.
We later move to Germany where we meet Nejat's father Ali (a wonderful Kurtiz) who has just begun a "business" relationship with middle aged prostitute Yeter (Kose who is detached yet moving).
Yeter's daughter Ayten (Yesilcay) lives in Istanbul where she is short of becoming a terrorist. Soon she will become romantically involved with German student Lotte (a naive Ziolkowska) who lives in Bremen with her mother Susanne (Schygulla).
Travelling constantly back and forth between Istanbul and Bremen, Akin structures his film around two major deaths and the relationships between three sets of parents and children, all of which will become linked before the end in completely unexpected ways.
Akin's intentions are obviously not to show off how many degrees of separation he can find between these people and his film obtains a certain beauty because of it, but the scope of what he's trying to say becomes redundant and obvious because he doesn't trust his images as much as he trusts his words.
Akin has trouble conveying believable space/time situations, which become more obvious in Lotte and Ayetn's relationship.
While supposedly they have been together for a year, the actresses don't muster this kind of connection. Their lust is forced and their eventual love comes off looking awkward and impossible to understand. You can't blame this on the limited screentime of the "year", because cinema after all is supposed to condense vastness, but on the situations Akin chooses to show us.
When Lotte eventually leaves her mother to go help her girlfriend, what we find in her is ingratitude and stupidity instead of admiration.
Then again you can't blame Akin, because only after this happens do we see the wonderful work of Hanna Schygulla who steals the film with a moving portrayal of maternal love and dignity.
It is with her with whom Akin makes his palindrome of a film work at its best, whenever she's onscreen even the most ridiculous plot twists make sense and the forced dialogues become moving.
The actress has the sort of familiarity (even for those who don't know her work with Fassbinder) that make her seem the only one whose life you believe existed before the screenplay was written.
In what could've been one of the film's most moving moments her Susanne goes to Istanbul where she remembers a trip she had made to India decades before.
Those who had been paying attention to the movie carefully will draw parallels between her life and her daughter's without an eventual journal narration that steals the moment of its intimacy.
With this, and a tacky Biblical metaphor about sacrificed children, Akin seems to have forgotten that, while we might all indeed connected by a mysterious force, the moments of utmost spiritual realization often occur quietly inside each of us.