Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nurgül Yesilçay, Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz, Hanna Schygulla, Patrycia Ziolkowska, Nursel Köse, Yusuf Kaba, Yelda Reynaud, Lars Rudolph, Andreas Thiel
Written by: Fatih Akin
Directed by: Fatih Akin
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: German, Turkish, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 122
Date: 05/23/2007

The Edge of Heaven (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Intriguing 'Edge'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Edge of Heaven plays out like a complex novel clearly adapted to the screen, and yet it's an original screenplay. We meet six main characters, some of which never cross paths, but all of whom are connected. Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz) is a Turkish-born widower living in Germany, who likes to visit prostitutes. One day he discovers Yeter (Nursel Köse), a blond-wigged item who calls herself "Jesse," and is also of Turkish descent. He feels a connection toward her and offers to buy her out, to pay her prostitute's wages if she'll come live with him and provide her services exclusively for him. Yeter has a daughter, Ayten (Nurgül Yesilçay, who looks a tad like the Czech supermodel Veronika Zemanova), who is involved with a militant group in Istanbul. She escapes the police, winds up in Germany and begins searching for her mother, who she believes works in a shoe shop. A German student, Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), with curly blonde hair, helps the penniless Ayten and the two begin a love affair. Lotte's mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla) quietly disapproves.

Meanwhile, Yeter's new job with Ali has turned sour. Ali drinks too much and begins to treat Yeter as a servant, as an inferior. As foreshadowed by the film's chapter cards, Yeter meets with a terrible fate. So Ali's son Nejat (Baki Davrak), a professor of German, comes into the picture. He had been getting along well with Yeter and feels he owes a debt to her, so he tries to locate Ayten with the intention of funding her education. While looking, he buys a German-language bookstore in Istanbul, perhaps hoping to find Ayten while staying in one place (and not knowing that Ayten is no longer in Istanbul). A gun comes into the picture, characters die, there is political intrigue, and Akin winds up the climax using techniques straight out of Griffith, but with a skill all his own. Best of all is the film's final image, which gives us a kind of conclusion, but refuses to be nailed down or labeled.

The 34 year-old writer/director Fatih Akin (In July, Head-On) was born in Germany of Turkish ancestry, a ready-made outsider. But the most remarkable thing about his films is that while they acknowledge his cross-cultural divide, they don't necessarily deal with the issue of trying to fit in with a satisfying click on one side or another. Rather, this acknowledgment simply adds layers of color and nuance, dissolving borders rather than reinforcing them. Jumping around between characters, nationalities and countries, and even repeating images, Akin nonetheless achieves a workmanlike functionality; the film feels lean and economic with a perfect pace and clarity. It's his most accomplished film yet.

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