Death Becomes Them

Fatih Akin scores again with ‘The Edge of Heaven.’

By John Stiles. 

Ayten Öztürk is seduced by Lotte Staub in The Edge of Heaven.

When a character in a film asks, “To what shall we drink?,” and is answered, “Death,” I worry that I’ve stumbled into an Ingmar Bergman revival. Written and directed by the same man who six years ago delivered the freshest romantic comedy since The Philadelphia Story (2002’s In July ), The Edge of Heaven is a long way from the desolation of Bergman’s Nordic vision.

The man responsible for both films is Fatih Akin, the German-born son of Turkish parents. Akin’s films often reflect the challenge of preserving an identity in the face of powerful and contrary cultural imperatives. He uses this “stranger in a strange land” backdrop as the starting point from which to weave a rich tapestry of thematic elements around an intriguing, intricate, and novel plot.

The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite) is told in three parts, “The Death of Yeter,” “The Death of Lotte,” and “The Edge of Heaven.” The central character, Ayten, Yeter’s daughter and Lotte’s lover, careens between Turkey and Germany fomenting revolt, avoiding arrest, and generally wreaking havoc. Yeter’s lover’s son, Nejat, embarks on a quest to find Ayten and maybe more.

It is through Akin’s dense thematic tapestry where The Edge of Heaven ascends from good to great. The abiding significance of mere chance to direct and control our fate, the struggle for identity in an alien world, sacrifice, repentance, and, finally, the power of death to wrench open the doors we thought long sealed infuse a captivating story with richness and meaning rarely encountered in film.

At press time, The Edge of Heaven , nominated for best film and winner of best screenplay at Cannes in 2007, was scheduled to continue its run into September at Angelika Film Center.

John W Stiles ( writes regularly for OutSmart magazine.

Photo caption: Ayten Öztürk (Nurgül Yesilçay, right) is seduced by Lotte Staub (Patrycia Ziolkowska) in Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven.


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