Film Review: Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven)

Posted in conjunction with the course Multicultural Germany in fall semester 2015.
Author: Kenneth Cromer

The Edge of Heaven (2007), directed by German-Turkish director Fatih Akın, is an award-winning German-Turkish film that exemplifies the convergence of German and Turkish cultures in many regards, including heritage, language and lifestyle. Beyond the masterfully crafted intersecting storylines, an intersection of German and Turkish culture occurred that brings to light the ever growing importance of the two cultures in relation to the future of Germany and its people.

The intersection of cultures finds its roots in dialogue and scenes, where individuals from both German and Turkish origin experienced parallel events. One example of this parallelism is the death of Yeter, a Turkish prostitute, and the death of Lotte, the German lover of Ayten, who happens to be the daughter of Yeter. Reactions to Lotte’s death are devastating for both her mother and lover. While the film may not explicitly state so, it reveals through the emotion the characters display and powerful scenes that Germans and Turks are humans and share commonalities, including compassion and love, something that brings them together. This shows us that intertwining the two cultures is possible, as do many other instances in the film.

Another example of the cultural interconnectivity between Germany and Turkey is the son of a Turkish migrant to Germany, Alisan Nejat, who journeys to Turkey to find the lost daughter of the prostitute his father had come to like and accidently murdered (Ayten). Alisan is an intriguing character who retained his fluency in German, although he was raised in Germany and eventually became a professor of German. This background demonstrates something that has been more common in Germany in the last few decades, namely second and third generation Turkish migrants who face the intertwining of two cultures – German and Turkish. Alisan demonstrates through important actions, such as his interchanging use of language and transition of habits in Germany to habits in Turkey, the blending of the two cultures. Furthermore, his change to living in Turkey supports the strong connection some descendants of migrants have to their heritage.

Dialogue in the film is a significant component that contributes to a portrayal of contemporary Germany, continuously shifting throughout the film between German and Turkish, especially when the setting is in Germany. Alongside this, we see an oscillation between Turkish and English when the story focuses on Ayten, who knows no German and resorts to English for communication with Germans. The father and son (Ali and Nejat), convey a significant aspect of modern day German society whereby migrants and their children live through a mixture of German and Turkish culture. Language is an aspect of culture that becomes difficult when two cultures meet; this difficulty is shown through Nejat’s reluctance to use Turkish first whenever he speaks in Germany, however, he is easily able to switch into Turkish, showing he knows it, but prefers to speak the tongue of the country he grew up in. This seems to change in Turkey, where he knows he must speak Turkish, although the bookstore scenes do confirm that he prefers German when he chooses to speak German with the bookstore owner and German guests, before even attempting Turkish.

The film develops much more to the topic of exchange between the German and Turkish cultures, but most importantly leaves us with a better understanding that people are thinking and feeling persons who can understand this about each other, a simple aspect about people that is often overlooked. In relation to Germany’s history of migration and to contemporary issues, the film demonstrates the obvious ties many Germans today have to foreign countries, exemplifying a new face of Germany, one that can no longer ignore the effects of globalization.

– Kenneth Cromer


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