Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Edge of Heaven

What a hidden little wonder. Here is a movie you likely haven’t heard of, and you’re likely not to see. But it’s my job to convince you to drive ridiculous distances to an independent theatre, or remember the name when the DVD comes out, because The Edge of Heaven is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

First released at last year’s Cannes Film Festival (it won best screenplay) and considered for Best Foreign Film at last year’s Oscars (why it wasn’t nominated, I have no idea) this Turkish-German film is a fascinating character study of inter-looping characters who may or may not ever meet.

The beauty is in the characters. A Turkish man living in Germany, teaches German studies at a college. His widowed father offers a prostitute to live with him and keep him company. The prostitute, who is fleeing from thugs, is tempted by the old man’s offer. Her daughter, a political rebel in Turkey, longs to find her mother. The daughter’s lover, a female German student, meet by chance. The lover’s mother that disproves of the radical, new Turkish girl, and round and round.

All of these characters get their moments to shine, some of them share the screen, several of them never meet, but they are all connected. The film has a narrative similar to Amores perros or Babel; three distinct stories told in order. The first story plays out, then we go back to the second story and so on. I won’t even dare reveal the titles of two of the stories, because they tell you that two different characters will die. At first, this turned me off, but then I realized the significance of it. Writer-director Fatih Akin is giving us something before the characters know it, this way, we sympathize even more.

The plot is complicated, yet elegantly executed. One character accidently kills another. Then one of them goes and tries to find another character, while that character is trying to find another. Confused? You won’t be, I’m only being vague to keep the surprises fresh.

There are several moments when the characters come within seconds or feet from one another, yet never make contact. They’ve been looking for each other for months, and never knew that they had just missed them. The Edge of Heaven is a magical masterpiece, like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m curious to know why it has such a small release, and why it wasn’t nominated for any Oscars.

There is a scene in this film that stands out among every other poignant one. Two characters speak to one another, one of them apologizes then the other looks confused and simply says that there is nothing to be sorry about and then explains how she is going to help the other one. By this point in the film, both characters have suffered insurmountable loss, they have not gotten along for the entire film, but in this moment, there is forgiveness, there is a longing to move forward. This 30 second scene is one of the most moving moments I’ve ever seen captured on film. It is heartbreaking, hopeful and completely real. Remember this film, seeing The Edge of Heaven will do you good, it will refresh your positive motives, and affirm that there is decency in human contact. A+

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