American audiences that have seen films such as Magnolia and Babel are no strangers to woven, semi-interconnected narratives. The strength of these films often lies in how different story elements balance against each other to create dimensionality through both contrast and harmony, and in how issues of fate and randomness are addressed through connecting various narrative threads.
The new German film The Edge of Heaven is perhaps the most naturally flowing of this type of film and, moreover, its results are quite simply the most—at the risk of hyperbole—profound.
Edge’s profundity is all the more impressive given its writer-director’s relative youth. Fatih Akin (Head-On), who was born in 1973 in Hamburg, Germany to Turkish émigrés, is young and cool enough to occasionally moonlight at German clubs under the pseudonym DJ Superdjango. Akin’s DJing hobby may explain not only his perfect sense of dramatic tone and rhythm, but also how he so deftly interweaves themes and story lines.
Drawing on his own ethnic experience, Akin pulls his camera back and forth between his native Germany and his parents’ homeland of Turkey. He begins in Germany with a cantankerous, lecherous old Turkish protagonist, who essentially leases a prostitute for full-time services. Akin then unostentatiously shifts to another character and then another and another.
Edge’s plot should not be revealed further, since much of its wonder is generated by its unexpected changes in course. But know that the German-, Turkish- and English-language film is a devastating drama that also manages to optimistically address the way divides between people can be bridged by shared sorrows—that is, when those divides are handled with kindness instead of vengeance.
Akin sculpts these themes through a variety of cinematic techniques, most notably—beyond the protean protagonist—splendid cinematographic composition, metaphor-rich mise en scène and an incredible score. The German and Turkish ensemble of actors is top-notch, too. As a testament to its power, it’s nearly impossible not to watch the credits in their entirety, while a single, nearly still scene plays behind them.
Like string theory or the music of a string orchestra, Edge is a multidimensional universe created through vibrating strings working in tandem. The result sits perched on the edge of perfection.
The Edge of Heaven
Written and directed by Fatih Akin
With Nurgül Yesilçay, Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz, Hanna Schygulla, Patrycia Ziolkowska and Nursel Köse
122 min., NR