Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Spending time in purgatory

By Edward Copeland
The Edge of Heaven tells its story in three parts and two countries. Writer-director Fatih Akin is a German-born Turk and his tale spreads across both countries and several characters. While the audience knows how they connect, the characters don't always discover the links in this superb meditation on estrangement, reconciliation and humanity.

Each section bears a title, two of them revealing that they will involve characters' deaths, building a bit of suspense about when and how it will happen and, in some cases, which character they are referring to if you are uncertain about their name.

There are many cultural issues that I'm sure citizens of that part of the world would pick up on more than an American such as myself, but what gives the film its power are its character studies and its excellence performances, especially from its women.

Nursel Kose is touching and tough as an aging prostitute who takes a chance on a new life and longs for a daughter that has gone incommunicado. Nurgul Yesilcay is even better as Ayten, a Turkisk political activist on the lam in Germany who finds something worth committing to that's better than a cause in Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), a college student who becomes her lover.

Then there is the veteran actress Hanna Schygulla as Lotte's mother, suspicious of Ayten and protective of her daughter though ultimately bonded to the activist. Schygulla's range and shadings are a wonder to behold and cheers to the National Society of Film Critics for selecting her as their best supporting actress.

Now, I don't want to slight the two men central to the film, since they are good as well. Ali Aksu paints a sad portrait as an aging Turkisk widower who tries to stem his loneliness with visits to prostitutes and Baki Davrak is good as his son, a German professor who always feels compelled to try to do the right thing.

Fatih Akin tries to do the right thing with every writing and directing move he makes in The Edge of Heaven and more often than not, he succeeds. He's a filmmaker to watch.

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Akin's 2004 "Head-On" is a terrific film. While I liked "The Edge of Heaven", his earlier film is a relentlessly impressive feat, joining and then tearing apart two screwed-up souls for over 2 hours.
I saw Head-On and liked it a lot, I just forgot Akin was the one who made it. I'm getting old.
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