The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite) Review
In a remote part of Turkey, on the Black Sea coast, a man arrives at a petrol station. This is Nejat (Baki Devrak), who used to be a Professor of German in Hamburg. Why is he here? We go into flashback to find out. In Bremen, Nejat’s father Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz) begins seeing a Turkish prostitute, Yeter (Nursel Köse). He makes her an offer: live with him in return for providing him with sex exclusively. Meanwhile, Yeter’s daughter Ayten (Nurgül Yesilçay) has fled Turkey after being involved in a resistance group. Posing as a student, she meets Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) with whom she falls in love…
The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite, literally translated as “On the Other Side”) arranges its six principal characters – the last is Lotte’s mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla) – in neat patterns, too neat for some. After the opening scene mentioned above, which we return to at the end, Turkish-German director Fatih Akin’s film is divided into three chapters. Two characters die, their names revealed by two of the chapter titles – both violent, senseless deaths that could have been prevented. The film urges that people make connections: between countries (Germany and Turkey), generations (parent and child), between opposing ideologies. Yeter is hassled by two Turkish men who berate her for not wearing a Muslim headscarf and for working as a prostitute. Ayten renounces the political group she belongs to – in the eyes of her country’s government, a terrorist organisation – when she sees that all violence will breed is more violence. And Nejat seeks a reconciliation with the father he previously rejected. Understanding, forgiveness, tolerance – The Edge of Heaven may be idealistic and possibly naïve, and has a couple too many convenient coincidences, but it can’t be denied its heart is in the right place.
Two of Akin’s filmmaking heroes are Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Yilmaz Güney. Part of the inspiration of this film was the possibility of using the services of the former’s frequent leading lady Hanna Schygulla, and the Tuncel Kurtiz, who had several times acted for the latter. That said, the two are only in one brief scene together, which is an example of the writer-director’s undue concern for plot neatness. However, all six of the principal cast are excellent, though Ziolkowska is clearly rather too old to be a student. There’s also a strong sense of place, whether it be a Turkish village, the backstreets of Istanbul or the immigrant communities of Bremen and Hamburg. Several scenes that do stick in the mind and the film is ultimately moving, even if you can’t quite shake off a sense of contrivance.
A follow up to 2003’s Head-On (which I have not seen), The Edge of Heaven won the Best Screenplay award at the 2007 Cannes Festival. With Head On, it forms the second leg of a thematic trilogy, to be completed by the currently-in-production Garbage in the Garden of Eden.
Artificial Eye’s DVD is encoded for Region 2 only. The transfer is in the ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. As you can expect from this distributor, you get a fine image, solid, sharp, strongly coloured and with fine shadow detail.
The soundtrack comes in two varieties, Dolby Digital 5.1 and analogue Dolby Surround (Dolby Digital 2.). The latter is mixed distinctly louder than the 5.1 track. Akin uses directional sound effectively, such as in a prison scene where the door slams on a character in the surround speakers. The 5.1 track is sharper than the 2.0 track, but the latter is a perfectly acceptable alternative. The film’s dialogue is mainly in German and Turkish, with English used as a lingua franca in some scenes. As you might expect, there are no subtitles available for the English-language dialogue.
The main extra is “Fatih Akin: Diary of a Film Traveller” (57:02). Beginning and ending with Akin being interviewed, this is a making-of that goes through the process from beginning to end: the idea and inspiration, filming in Germany and Turkey, post-production to the premiere at Cannes and the inspiration for the next film. Akin is an engaging host and this is a very watchable extra, which is subtitled throughout. Also on the disc is the theatrical trailer (1:31)
It’s been a while since I last reviewed an Artificial Eye DVD here, and in the meantime they’ve started including trailers for their own discs. Here, these are for The Singer, Lady Chatterley and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
Last updated: 16/05/2018 21:10:37