The celestial border referred to in Fatih Akin’s appealing new film (the literal translation of the original German title is “on the other side”) suggests just how closely it abuts the schematic humanism of Crash or Babel. Although it’s easy enough to accuse Akin’s latest—which follows the interconnected paths of six characters (four Turks and two Germans) and is divided into three parts—of being a connect-the-dots narrative, The Edge of Heaven ultimately triumphs over its overdetermined structure through the sheer power of its performers and the pleasures of some of its plot threads.
The Edge of Heaven is the second in a planned trilogy of love-death-evil, following 2003’s Head-On. But flipping the order of the first two installments makes more sense: In place of all the silly nihilism of Head-On are several instances of true, deep attachment, whether romantic, filial or maternal. The most satisfying love story belongs to Lotte (Ziolkowska), the pampered daughter of a judgmental bourgeoise (Schygulla) who protects—and falls for—the Turkish political activist Ayten (Yesilçay), hiding out in Hamburg and hoping to find her long-lost mother. One night is all it takes for Lotte and Ayten’s electric bond to form; with great economy, Akin shows their infatuation. When tragedy strikes, Schygulla commits to fulfilling a mission. That German icon, of course, suggests a connection with Fassbinder, whose Ali: Fear Eats the Soul serves as forebear to both Head-On and Edge. Akin, like RWF, updates melodrama. What distinguishes The Edge of Heaven is that fear, rather than consuming its characters, is vanquished by them.
Cast and crew