Friday, February 29, 2008

The Edge of Heaven

Still from The Edge of Heavendir Fatih Akin

Bright young thing of German cinema Fatih Akin returns with this complex tale of six characters crossing gender, ethnic and physical boundaries.

The story is divided into three parts and the titles presage major plot points, which I shall not give away. But Akin, both writer and director, seems especially interested in how things happen, making for a twisty journey with an uncertain end.

And journey is an appropriate word because transit is a major theme in this film: characters fly in and out of cities, coffins are transported, and there is much to-ing and fro-ing as the story criss-crosses from Germany to Turkey.

At the centre of all this is Nejat, a German with a Turkish background who leaves Hamburg to look for Ayten, whose mother, Yeter, has died. As he searches for her in Istanbul, and she seeks her mother in Bremen, a web of relationships is created. Bonds are forged and broken. Loyalties are tested and tragedy ensues.

Family relationships are especially trying, as Nejat's relationship with his father Ali breaks down. Ayten's girlfriend Lotte rebels against her middle-class upbringing, castigating her mother Susanne for being "so German".

Yet, even in these seemingly polarised situations Akin finds subtle parallels, drawing threads of the story together. For example, Nejat and Ayten both declare that education is a human right, and Susanne and Lotte share traits that are only gradually revealed when the mother arrives in Istanbul looking for clues about her daughter.

There is no neat resolution as Akin leaves the viewer hanging, wondering whether certain characters will ever meet and recognise each other. But he does seem to suggest that the ties that bind can be found in the most unlikely places.

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