15
Sep 09

My Ten Favourite Films Of 2008: 9: The Edge Of Heaven

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I loved “Head On”, Fatih Akın’s previous film which was a gutsy violent Turkish / German romance. It was proper European cinema, no pussyfooting around with its depth of emotion between two characters both drawn together and who hated each other. A great little personal story which also could be unfolded into a relationship between Turkey and Germany, a messy relationship one would say. But it didn’t come out in 2008, The Edge Of Heaven did, and whilst I liked The Edge Of Heaven, it is fair to say I was initially a bit disappointed. And yet it has stayed with me for a lot longer than expected.

What was my problem with The Edge Of Heaven? Too much plot. Its a film about immigration, legal, illegal and attitudes towards it. It is also a film about forgiveness and regret. So we have a sham(ish) marriage, illegal immigration, violent political activists, German Turks become Turkish Turks, and good old fashioned middle-class prejudice. It all felt like a bit too much at the time, especially the needed coincidences that dovetail two relatively separate storylines together. The main characters all grow, all learn something (or die) and yet the artifice of the situation that got them there makes the lessons learned unlikely ones. But like I said, it has stayed with me – so I watched it again. And i never watch films again.

And what I discovered was, I was wrong. Or at least I was right (there is a plot of contrived plot) but I was wrong to call that a flaw. The narrative drive of the film is subdued by Akın’s restraint with his pacing and cinematography. Clearly he has something to say, lots of things to say, about the links between Germany, Turkey and national identity, most of which are critical. But there is a real sense that institutions may be monolithic but people aren’t. So we see the Turkish and German states being arseholes in very different ways, but we also see a middle-class German woman completely out of her depth embracing this. Perhaps the characters were designed to make a point (the Turkish German lecturer who gives up teach Goethe to run a bookshop in Turkey) but Akin fleshes out his placeholders into real characters. In a good way, its the kind of tangled narrative that all those “Short Cuts” style issue films of late would like to be. And multilingual to boot!

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