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  The Edge of Heaven
Fatih Akin

Tom Smith
posted 7 January 2008

Turkish-German director Fatih Akin describes his most recent feature film, The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite), as a film about globalisation. But don’t expect a sinker such as Blood Diamond, or even a documentary – Akin has made several, of the pre-Michael Moore school of objectivity, but when ‘[he] needs to make propaganda, [he] turns to fiction’. The modern world of migration and activism is what Akin understands by globalisation; he even feels we should replace the word immigration with the G-word.

As is typical of his oeuvre, Fatih Akin draws on his Turkish and German heritage to examine two aspects of the world in The Edge of Heaven: the clashes and conflicts within, and its inherent beauty. The conflicts between the two cultures are combined in each of the threads running through the film, intertwined around Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), a first-generation migrant in Bremen who takes in prostitute Yeter (Nursel Köse) to the displeasure of his son Nejat (Baki Davrak). Also tied up in the plot is Ayten (Nurgül Yesilçay), Yeter’s daughter, who is politically active in Turkey and flees to Germany. And Patrycia Ziolkowska is a star act in her portrayal of Lotte, a middle-class German student who is politically awakened when she befriends Ayten, and follows her to Istanbul after her deportation. Lotte's much more conservative mother Susanne is played by Hanna Schygulla, who is something of a legend in German film, and Akin was delighted to be able to work with her.

Fatih Akin does not regard his double heritage as a special privilege to be kept for himself, but as something for both Western and Turkish audiences to share and to learn from. Akin revealed at a screen talk at the Renoir cinema in London that he had wanted to write his thesis on musical scores (until he was successfully discouraged from doing so by his ‘fiercely feminist tutor’), and his films certainly do attempt to make Turkish music accessible to the Western ear. The repetition at the beginning and end of the film of a song by a Turkish pop star who died from cancer in his twenties, and the explanation of this death whilst we hear the song in a petrol station near Istanbul, bring us closer to a culture we have a tendency to orientalise.

The attention to narrative is matched by the care for colour and detail of composition: in Ayten's prison cell, the shade of green is visually arresting, and the beds are placed where they really say something: a little too far apart to represent the reality of the dire Turkish prison system, but far enough to express separation between the characters. The exotic, chaotic Istanbul is contrasted to a safe, dull Germany – Germany does in some ways offer asylum and greater freedom, but this only serves to heighten the dangerous, exotic appeal of Turkey. A quotation from Goethe, warning against ‘untimely revolution’, is repeated several times during the film. In the globalising world of Fatih Akin, the revolution has already begun.

 

     
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