Saw an excellent film tonight – The Edge of Heaven, the latest from Turkish-German director, Fatih Akın, whose Crossing The Bridge, about the music scene in Istanbul, was one of last year’s best films.
The film is presented in three sections, Death of Yeter, Death of Lotte and the Edge of Heaven. Each of the two deaths is sudden and unexpected, even when you already know the title of the section. At the centre of all these stories is Nejat, a second generation Turk in Germany, a professor of German. Nejat’s father Ali, one day brings home Yeter, a middle-aged Turkish prostitute, with the intention of living with her. Though disapproving at first, Nejat accepts Yeter – the two form a kind bond which is looked upon suspiciously by Ali. In a fit of anger, Ali hits Yeter which leads to her death.
Nejat flies to Turkey to attend the funeral and sets out to look for Yeter’s missing daughter Ayten. On an impulse, he decides to buy a German bookstore in Istanbul, settles there and continues his search. Meanwhile, we meet Ayten, who is involved in an armed rebellion against the government and escapes police to seek refuge in Germany. She meets a fiery, idealistic girl called Lotte, the two embark on a passionate relationship which is frowned upon by Lotte’s mother Sussane. Ayten is eventually caught by the police, which leads to series of tragic events. But these events also bring together these unconnected people in an unusual companionship and inter-dependence, which appears natural and perfectly believable.
“I don’t feel comfortable with the immigration cinema label at all,” says Akin. “Globalisation, I think, explains it more. It’s a continental dialogue.”
The complex plot coalesced in Akın’s mind on a long road trip in 2005 to the Black sea with his father and a friend. He had read in Bob Dylan’s Chronicles that the singer’s grandmother was from Trabzon, toward the Georgian border, “and I said, ‘Get out of here – my grandparents are from there.’ So if Dylan was from there, I had to go there and see what was going on.”
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian:
This is an intriguing, complex, beautifully acted and directed piece of work, partly a realist drama of elaborate coincidences, near-misses and near-hits, further tangled with shifts in the timeline – and partly an almost dreamlike meditation with visual symmetries and narrative rhymes. It is about the tension between Germany and Turkey, to whom postwar West Germany opened its doors for “guest-worker” labourers, thereby getting an economic boost but creating for itself an unacknowledged quasi-imperial legacy of guilt and cultural division. And it is about the gulf between the first- and second-generation Turkish-Germans, conflicted about their identity and their relation with the old country, itself conflicted as it prepares to join the European Union.
Postscript: later saw on DVD Fatih Akin’s earlier Head-On, another very good film which lives up to its title in its opening minutes, as angry alcoholic Cahit (Birol Unel) deliberately drives his car into a wall. This failed suicide attempt brings him together with Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), the equally desperate daughter of strict Muslim Turks, who begs Cahit to join her in a marriage of convenience.
Edge of Heaven trailer
Fatih Akin talks about Edge of Heaven
Crossing the Bridge trailer
Crossing the Bridge clip
- Continental drift: Fatih Akın tells Phil Hoad about the many borders he’s crossed (Guardian)
- Guardian review
- Roger Ebert review
- Sight and Sound review
- Head-On review (Observer)
- Head-On review (Roger Ebert)
- Head-On review (Sight & Sound)