Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Edge of Heaven (2007)

A common storytelling technique in films is to introduce multiple characters, establish each one individually through parallel story lines, and eventually connect them through one common bond. However, what is less common with this technique is when that one common bond is death.

These are the exact themes that Fatih Atkin's The Edge of Heaven explores -- how death and sadness can bring people closer together.

The film is a prime example of beautiful storytelling. The story begins when an elderly man named Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz) befriends a prostitute named Yeter (Nursel Kose.) Ali, widowed and lonely, enjoys Yeter's company and tells her that he will double her salary if she chooses to come live with him. She agrees, and moves in with Ali and his son Nejat (Baki Davrak), who is a college professor. Where as Ali is a very crude and reactionary man, Nejat is very calm, respectful and intelligent.

The trio are all Turkish but live in Bremen, Germany. It turns out that Yeter has a daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay) who she hasn't seen in years. She lives in Istanbul but she doesn't know how to track her. Nejat, who takes a liking to Yeter, travels to Istanbul to find her.

The movie is told in two "chapters," and each one is given a title of "The Death of ____" which lists which character is going to die. It obviously plays as a spoiler, but the movie was never going for suspense and surprise. The purpose of the movie is to show how the characters react to the death. In this case, it motivates them to seek human connection.

The movie's title, The Edge of Heaven, is a commentary on the feeling that one attains when death stares them right in the eye. How they behave in these circumstances is the essence of human nature that Akin, who wrote the script, tried to capture, and does so resplendently. Another theme of the film that derives from this is one of forgiveness.

Patrycia Ziolkowska and Nurgul Yesilcay in The Edge of Heaven.
The corresponding story line involves Yeter, who is a political activist involved in a group attempting to rebel against the Turkish government. But when she gets in trouble with police and is forced to go on the run, she ends up in Bremen, and finds solace and friendship with a German woman named Charlotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) and her mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla.) All the while, she has no idea that her mother has sent Nejat on a quest to find her. 

The film contains some beautiful cinematography of Turkish and German cities and landscapes, but the whole movie is a success all around. From the script to the acting, the whole film is an experience to behold. Davrak, as Nejat, was exceptionally proficient in his role. 

Though The Edge of Heaven revolves around death, it never gets too existential or religious. It simply tells a story, using a technique that is neither uncommon or overused, but does so in a tasteful way. It's a movie that asks the same questions we all ask, without providing any real answers, all while taking us to the edge of Heaven and back.


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  2. Just watched the movie on Netflix Instant. I loved the parallel stories including the respective symmetry in both geography and circumstance for each. Every actor in the film resonates clearly and really hits on the intended nerve of the audience (from Ali to Ayten). I also appreciated the way the film centers around Nejat, not in a fixed perspective kind of way but rather in regards to the universe of the story. As is the case with many exceptional foreign films, the ending is thoroughly anti-Hollywood in that we are not served a clean-cut, bliss-inducing culmination that ties up all the loose ends on a silver platter. Instead we are left to absorb the lot of the film's ingredients: the tragedy of death, the struggle it often takes to love another and, yes, even the mystique of serendipity. Awesome storytelling meets earnest acting. Loved it.