Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Auf Der Anderen Seite (At the Edge of Heaven)

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This is one of those movies that speak to your soul directly. Excellent scenario and directing, a wonderful use of the "helplessness" and "missing half" theme, and a strong moral implication related to today's ideological arena.

The complex story is well-woven and under the control of the scenarist. The storyline revolves around four or five characters, creating a couple of different stories that go on. No one among the characters are aware of the full complexity of the situation they are in, and they keep missing their destiny by a couple of seconds or by a couple of meters. The audience is fully aware of what is going on, and this creates a feeling of helplessness. One main theme therefore is that: Helplessness in the face of chance meetings - or lack thereof.

One of the main characters, arguably the main character, Nejat Aksu, (acted by Baki Davrak), is reminiscent of the writer/director himself. He is a professor in a German university, and his emotional or behavioral ties with his rural Turkish background are split. As a loner, the audience does not hear much his opinions or feelings on the issue; we have to judge by small changes of expression in close shoot-ups. He has lost his "Mediterranean" expressiveness. In contrast, Lutte's (acted by Patrycia Ziolkowska) behavior becomes more and more aggressive, as she moves geographically (and mentally) towards Turkey.

One note of interest is that all characters have a "missing half", somewhere else in the movie, but fail to get to that half, and even die trying. Nejat Aksu has lost a mother, and then loses his father. The maternal figure is there with Lutte, but Lutte is missing the father and a certain strength of will to take steps, as she later confesses in her journal. Ayten Öztürk is also missing the mother, probably she is missing a lover as well - she is unrested - she is in fact "a person you likes to struggle" as commented by Susanne Staub. Lutte's mother, Susanne Staub (by Hanna Schygulla) is missing a daughter eventually. This contributes to the feeling of helplessness, but also adds a moral tone, implying that solutions to our life problems can be lying closer than it would appear to us.

A very touching scene in the movie is when Susanne is in front of the window, watching the Muslim man walk to the prayer. She is explained by Nejat Aksu the significance of the festivities, and she realizes that she is closer to Turkey than she imagines. In that scene, she takes a step towards making a posthumous peace with her daughter, which she direly needs. The scene is symbolic in the sense that it reflects the political arena.

The writer and the director Akin is an acute observer. The contrast between Istanbul and Bremen are first laid out with striking effectiveness, then the similarities in the human emotional range are brought out to contribute to the reconciliation towards the end. In effect, the audience is presented with a moral tone: To find the missing half, you have to actually "travel", geographically and mentally, to the other half, and make your peace with it. The other half, is of course, Germany and Turkey, West and East.

The end is particular: Two important questions are unresolved. Are we then to assume that our characters are lost without hope? No, because Susanne Staub and Nejat Aksu have already taken the first steps to "reconcile with their missing half".

One possibly negative point about the movie is that the director's image of the Turkish police force and lawyers is outdated by probably twenty five years. However, this is to be overlooked for the sake of cinematic language and the story.

The movie is a rare piece. It tells a story of lost chances, with an ongoing theme of "missing half" and "miss by a couple of inches". However, we have reconciliation at the end, creating a feeling of optimism but also unresolved issues which helps to add the moral tone of: "You have to go towards your missing half to reconcile".

by Sinan_Ozel from Turkey

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