DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE) (director/writer: Fatih Akin; cinematographer: Rainer Klausmann; editor: Andrew Bird; music:  Shantel; cast: Baki Davrak (Nejat Aksu), Nursel Kose (Yeter Ozturk), Hanna Schygulla (Susanne Staub), Tuncel Kurtiz (Ali Aksu), Nurgul Yesilcay (Ayten Ozturk), Patrycia Ziolkowska (Lotte Staub); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Andreas Thiel/Klaus Maeck/Fatih Akin; Strand Releasing; 2007-Germany/Turkey-in English,German and Turkish with English subtitles)

"Much like one of Fassbinder's great ones."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The at the time 34-year-old acclaimed Turkish filmmaker raised in Germany, Fatih Akin ("Soul Kitchen"/"In July"/"Head-on"), writes and directs this profound melodrama about the fragility of the human condition. Not only is Rainer Werner Fassbinder's muse Hanna Schygulla part of the brilliant ensemble cast, but the poignant film is much like one of Fassbinder's great ones. The pic focuses on six characters (an estranged Turkish mother and daughter, an anguished relationship between a Turkish father and son, and an anguished relationship between a German mother and her daughter) and tells with deepening intensity their overlapping stories. In a contrived but always engrossing way it touches on such broad subjects as life's eerie coincidences, the universality of love, finding one's roots, the clashes between German and Turkish culture, the divide in politics and religion, and the estrangement among single parents and their lone child. The film goes around in a circle, as it begins and ends in Turkey's Black Sea coast during its bayram (a three-day religious festival). 

It was the winner of the Best Screenplay award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

The Turkish widowed elderly pensioner Ali Aksu (Tuncel Kurtiz) lives alone in Bremen. His adult son Nejat (Baki Davrak) teaches at Hamburg University, about an hour away. On a visit the scholarly bachelor discovers dad is living with a middle-aged Turkish prostitute he met at the local brothel, Yeter Ozturk (Nursel Kose), under a business arrangement whereby he every month matches her prostitute income for exclusive rights.

The widowed Yeter mentions she has a 27-year-old daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay), living in Istanbul, who was told her mom works in a Bremen shoe shop. The dissolute drunken Ali is hospitalized after a heart attack, and when recovering at home frets that his son might have screwed his possession. In a drunken stupor, telling Yeter he owns her, Ali accidentally kills her when she rejects him and he slaps her hard. This chapter was entitled "Yeter's Death," and was flashed on the screen before her actual death.

Ali is imprisoned in Germany, and Yeter's body is sent back to Turkey for burial. The timid Nefrat wants to find Yeter's daughter to give some financial reparations to honor his family's tarnished name over the incident and goes to Istanbul. But when Nejat has no luck locating the student, he quits his respected teaching post and buys a bookstore in Istanbul. All the while, with the help of Yeter's family, he continues to look for Ayten.

The next chapter flashed on the screen is entitled “Lotte’s Death.” With that we follow Ayten at a political demonstration, where she's a radical protester against the government and when she runs off with a beaten policeman's gun she is identified through her lost cell phone. Fleeing to Hamburg after hiding the gun on a roof, the surly Ayten develops a strong dislike for her radical comrades providing assistance and flees alone to Bremen to find her mom. While begging for a meal at the local university, the wide-eyed German coed Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) not only buys Ayten a meal but invites her to live together with her divorced middle-class mother in mom's modest house. The girls carry-on a lesbian relationship under the watchful eye of the wary mom. When Ayten can't produce an ID during a police traffic stop, she's arrested as an illegal. Eventually there's a court appearance and Ayten's refused asylum and returned to Istanbul. Imprisoned in Istanbul and awaiting a court date for stealing the gun Lotte, against mom's wishes, treks to Istanbul to lend support to her friend and lover.

As circumstances bring the living main characters closer, a series of tragic events occur that has a profound effect on each of them. Everyone in their own way tries to repair their damaged lives, as things eventually come around full circle. 

It's an intellectually sound film that packs an emotional wallop, one that stays with you long after watching it. But it's also a contrived film, doing everything it can to sway you to see both Turkey and Germany as the filmmaker sees it.

REVIEWED ON 11/15/2014       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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