Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Edge of heaven

Well! Where to start with this one?

The English name of the film has no correlation to the German name 'On the Other Side'. Perhaps it's random. The story appears to be, but it is actually extremely cleverly put together and told in a compelling way that draws you in. This is a German/Turkish film set in those two countries. The principle locations being Bremen and Istanbul.

The opening scene is of a car pulling into a dusty petrol station in a remote corner of Turkey. The driver gets his tank filled and buys lunch for the road. The music playing in the station is by a local celebrity who died a couple of years earlier from cancer which the owner blames on Chernobyl. The owner says to the driver 'he was young - like you. The driver pauses momentarily to reflect.

Ali is a retired Turkish immigrant living in Bremen who has long been a widower. He seeks comfort in the services of a prostitute, Yeter. He makes return visits to enjoy the services she offers and eventually offers to pay her the same amount of money she currently earns if she will live with him and provide her services when asked - nothing more.

Ali's son is Nejat is a Professor of German Literature and as a second generation Turk in Germany is able to move fluently between the two cultures. Before he is able to get his head around Yeter's arrival in the family home Ali suffers a heart attack. On release from hospital, Ali suspects Nejat and Yeter of being lovers and as he argues with Yeter in his drunkenness he pushes her and she falls hitting her head on the bed-frame and dies. Ali ends up in prison.

Nejat is appalled by his fathers actions and goes to Turkey to look for Yeter's 27 year-old daughter Ayten with whom she had lost contact. However Ayten who is a political activist in Turkey flees the country when the radical cell she is a part of is raided by the police. She flees to Germany on an illegal passport and is already in Hamburg looking for her mother when she dies. At one point Ayten is riding in a car next to tram in which her mother is riding - they don't see each other. As Nejat arrives at Istanbul airport we see Yeter's coffin being offloaded form a plane. Nejat enlists the aid of his family and puts up posters all around the city with a picture of Yeter on it in the hope of finding her daughter - who is in Germany.

Ayten strikes up a friendship with university student Lottie who invites her home to stay - much to the dislike of her mother Susanne. Ayten and Lottie become lovers. Eventually the law catches up with Ayten and she is deported. On arrival in Turkey she is arrested because of her political activity. Distressed Lottie flies out to Istanbul to try and seek her release. It takes her several months simply to get a permit to visit Ayton. Lottie ends up being shot by some kids high on solvents. We then see Lotties coffin being loaded onto a plane in Istanbul.

As Ali arrives back at Istanbul airport, he is taken away by immigration officials who presumably want to check on why he has been deported. At the next immigration booth is Susanne. The story is filled with these coincidences, parallel stories and near-misses that embrace the six central characters. From a camera high up in the corner of her hotel room, we see Susanne plumbing the depths of grief for her daughter. She eventually calms down and meets with Nejat who has bought a shop selling German books. Susanne wants to see where Lottie was staying - she had rented a room from Nejat who, had no idea that Lottie was looking for the daughter of Yeter too. Susanne ends up staying in the same room. After reading her daughter's diary she decides to take up Ayten's cause and visits her in prison offering forgiveness. This in turn encourages Ayten to exercise her right of repentance and she is released from prison.

Nejat and Susanne see crowds of people flocking to the mosque to observe Bayram - a Muslim observation of Abraham's obedience in his attempted sacrifice of Isaac. The sacrifice of children hold a place of special significance for both Susanne and Nejat. This is a central theme of the narrative.

Nejat asks Susanne to look after his shop as he heads East in search of his father near Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. It is Nejat who stopped at the petrol station at the opening of the film and that segment is now repeated in its correct place. When he arrives in the village, Ali is already out fishing, Nejat sits on the beach awaiting his father's return and the reconciliation that it will bring.

End of film.

My ramblings here have not done the story and the way it is told justice. The acting is very good and the locations have an earthy reality about them. I strongly urge you to see this film, you won't be disappointed. I'm going to give it 8/10.

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