Friday, June 06, 2008

The Edge of Heaven

Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven is a good example of the new breed of post-national European cinema, cinema which is informed by the spirit behind European union. Of course the post-nationalistic idea still remains mostly a bureaucratic abstraction and on the ground there are many more borders to transcend than just those on the map as Akin's film demonstrates beautifully. My personal favourite of these recent European films tackling this subject is Michael Haneke's Code Unknown which is actually a reworking of his own earlier film made in Austria 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, which is equally great. Both these films tell the stories of immigrants from Romania (another controversial entrant into the Union )and Balkan countries to France and Austria respectively and the attendant problems of alienation and social anomie.

The Edge of Heaven also reminded of another recent globe-trotting, border-hopping film with inter-connected narratives Babel - a gun without an owner forms the central plot point in both. The plot is slightly complex and built on surprises so it is better if one goes to see it without reading what really happens in the movie. Suffice to say that those who find such criss-crossing narratives overly deterministic and schematic will have some problems with this film too, though I am myself not one of those. That said, given a choice I will definitely prefer a more free-form narrative (like in the films of Robert Altman who was the master of this style).

The film did leave one sore point with me however. Like more than a few recent films (like for example another German hit Goodbye Lenin) it takes a shallow approach to left-wing militancies and student movements and its "critique" verges on sentimentalism. It even employs Goethe to this purpose who said that only a fool would want roses to bloom in winters which Akin interprets as an argument for social and political quietism and against revolution. I am also not that well-informed on the recent history of Turkey to find out if the militant movement shown in the film was any specific movement at a particular point in time or just a generic plot device.

Anyway, the actors are all wonderful - both young and old. I was specially glad to see Hanna Schygulla back in a meaty role. I really love her in Fassbinder's films. She is one of my favourite European actresses and she is just marvelous in this film too. The Edge of Heaven is definitely one step ahead for Akin after Head-On. It is more contemplative and subdued than his earlier effort and also more ambitious. The fact that he is still in his early thirties is another reason for rejoicing.


Szerelem said...

Oh God...I want to see this movie so much. I have heard only very good things and also that it's a better movie than Head On.

I Haven't seen the movie but isn't Nurgul Yesicay so gorgeous? I'm so taken with her.

Alok said...

It seemed to me a more mature work. I was a little put off by the loud music and loudness in general of Head-On... in contrast this is pretty calm, relaxed and quiet. You will probably appreciate the Turkish tunes more...they are everywhere on the soundtrack.

Yes, she is quite good in it. Actually the German girl and her mother played by Hanna Schygulla are great as well. (The German mother-daughter also seem to have some special affinity with India!!)