Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN/AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE - contrived cultural drama

AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE is not a poor film by any means, but I don't think it lives up to the art-house hype. Certainly, in a year of 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS; NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, I find it hard to believe that Fatih Akin won Best Screenplay at Cannes 2007.

The movie is set in contemporary Germany and Turkey. An old Turkish man in Bremen offers a Turkish prostitute a place in his house in return for exclusive services. At first, it seems a rather naive, romantic gesture. She is being harassed by religious fundamentalists so she accepts. We have been forewarned by a surtitle that the woman will be killed but I love how writer-director Fatih Akin still manages to take the audience by surprise. Sadly, credible surprise soon turns to contrived implausible events. It starts when the old man's grown son goes back to Turkey to find the dead woman's daughter. Rather improbably, he gives up his job as a German professor and impetuously buys a book shop in Istanbul.

The second segment centres on the dead women's daughter, a radical political agitator on the lam from the Turkish police. She hops a plane to Hamburg and is taken in by a sweet German languages student, much to her conservative mother's disgust. The two girls begin an affair, but the radical is soon deported and the German follows her to Istanbul. She remains in Istanbul for months, trying to fight her lover's incarceration. Improbably, she finds herself lodging with the old Turkish man's son.

The third segment of the movie sees all the story-lines come together in a manner that was so contrived as to be alienating. I left the cinema admiring Fatih Akin's ability to portray modern Turkish life, but less convinced that he had said anything particularly meaningful about racial and nationalist politics. The story, which had begun so promisingly, had disappeared into a small, trite, neatly-packaged box. Still, the movie is almost, but not quite, worth seeing for Patrycia Ziolkowska's heart-wrenching performance as the love-lorn German girl, Lotte, and the brilliant sound-track.

AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE/THE EDGE OF HEAVEN played Cannes 2007 where Fatih Akin won Best Screenplay. It also played Toronto 2007 and Berlin 2008. It opened in 2007 in Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Italy, Belgium and France. It opened earlier in 2008 in Norway, Greece, Jong Kong, Portugal and the Netherlands. It is currently on release in the UK and opens in March in Finland, Spain and Israel. Finally, it opens in the US on May 21st.

2 comments:

  1. Karan Arora5/11/08 5:22 PM

    Really? Hmm..Guess the film didn't didn't do it for you. I digged it for the precise same reasons you have lashed out at it, and thought the movie explored grief, love and celebrated random acts of goodness beautifully. It was so much more than a sum of its parts, but then so many factors go into forming an opinion about a flick, lets leave it at different blokes, different strokes watsay! Nice reading an informed counter-point of view.

    Cheers!

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  2. I agree.

    And like I said, even on my more negative reading, it's still a good film :-)

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