Edge of Heaven: Fatih Akin’s Follow-Up to Head-On, Starring Hanna Schygulla

Thematically, Fatih Akin’s “Edge of Heaven,” which world-premiered at the Cannes Film Fest, is a logical follow-up his 2003 “Head-On,” which had won the Golden Bear in the Berlin Film Fest.

Buoyed by the themes of trans-nationality and globalization, weaved into a two-generational family melodrama, the film is socially timely and politically relevant.

The film is divided into two parts, by titles that read “Yeder’s Death” and “Lotte’s Death.”  The narrative chronology is purposely violated, so that a scene that seems pointless in the beginning of the film becomes more meaningful when seen again in a different, fuller context.

Ali Aksu (Kurtiz), an old Turk living in Bremen, Germany takes a Turkish prostitute, Yeder (Kose), home, where she meets his son Nejat (Davrak). After accidentally killing Yeder, Ali is put in prison and his son Nejat goes to Turkey to look for Yeder’s daughter Ayten (Yesilcay), who is a member of a terrorist group fighting for “independence of thought in Turkey.”

After a police raid, the poor woman escapes to Germany where she meets Lotte (Ziolkowska), with whom she begins a lesbian relationship, frowned upon by Lotte’s mother Susanne (Schygulla).  Meanwhile, Nejat has decided to give up his university position as a professor of German in order to buy a bookstore in Istanbul.

Akin shows his concern with the complex, often destructive nature of trans-nationality of modern life–his characters regularly transit between the two countries, speaking variously in Turkish, German, and English.

The films ends on a stronger note by depicting a series of familial reconciliations. Susanne, who goes to Turkey in order to understand her daughter Lotte’s death, is reconciled with Ayten, who indirectly caused it. And on a remote beach in Trabzon, Nejat is waiting for his father to return from fishing.

Some of the coincidences–a Turkish immigrant’s son as a German literature professor–seem a bit too opportunistic and metaphorical.  And a debate about Turkey’s entry in the European Union does not ring true, but these are minor faults when placed against the film’s strengths.

Hanna Schygulla gives one of her most riveting performances in years, while the entire Turkish ensemble is excellent.