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

Posted in conjunction with the course Multicultural Germany in fall semester 2015.
Author: Seri In

The Edge of Heaven is a 2007 drama film written and directed by Turkish-German Fatih Akın. This film, set in Germany and Turkey, is in omnibus format in that it consists of three different episodes of ‘Yeter’s Death,’ ‘Lotte’s Death,’ and ‘The Edge of Heaven.’ Yet, these three episodes are tied closely together because each character’s stories and situations are intertwined with those of other characters. The segmentation and entitling of the episodes have effects on viewers by reinforcing subject through repetitive themes, and thus add excitement and appeal as well. In this film, there are six main characters that can be divided into three pairs: a Turkish-German immigrant old father named Ali and his son Nejat; a Turkish prostitute Yeter and her daughter Ayten; and lastly, a middle-class German female university student Lotte and her mother Susanne.

The first episode ‘Yeter’s Death’ depicts a journey to Istanbul undertaken by Nejat, who is a professor at a German university. He tries to find Yeter’s daughter Ayten, after his father Ali accidentally murdered Yeter. In this process, Nejat settles down in Istanbul and purchases a German-language bookstore. Next, in the second episode of ‘Lotte’s Death,’ the story unfolds as Yeter’s daughter Ayten flees to Germany. Ayten heads for Germany in the fear of being chased by the authorities due to her political activities, but also wants to find her mother Yeter, but she happens to meet Lotte at the German university, and they fall in love with each other. However, Ayten is forcibly returned to Turkey and sent to prison. These events lead Lotte to go to Istanbul to help Ayten, but Lotte’s destiny only ends in tragedy. Lastly but notably, the last episode of ‘The Edge of Heaven’ encompasses the previous two episodes. Lotte’s mother Susanne also comes to Istanbul to retrace the course of her daughter’s life. In this process, Susanne meets Nejat and visits to Ayten. She forgives Ayten and promises to help her. As the film comes to an end, Nejat changes his mind and pays a visit to his father to forgive him.

Although this film is divided into three episodes, each story is sophisticated in its plot and intimately connected to the others. In other words, there are many “links” that hold the entire story together. These “links” and “interlockings” are primarily constructed through the repetition of scenes, and failed encounters of the characters due to the endless cycle in which characters keep missing each other.

A repetition of scenes helps to keep the story coherent and linked. For example, there is a scene set in the airport, where the coffin of Yeter is transported and sent back to Turkey. Later, in the very same place as before, the coffin of Lotte is transported and sent back to the Germany. Thus, through the same element of “carrying a coffin” at the airport, the two episodes ‘Yeter’s Death’ and ‘Lotte’s Death’ are visually connected through a parallel gesture: Each episode has a tragic situation in which one of the main characters meet their death, and their deaths brings other main characters together in the same place, in this case, in Istanbul.

Similarly, several accidental encounters of characters show how each of the three episodes is deeply connected even though the characters never recognize each other. Sadly, Nejat never discovers who Ayten is and Ayten has no idea where her mother is and what has happened to her. For instance, there is a scene in which a car is passed by a train. In the car, Ayten and Lotte are driving in search of Yeter, but the couple never realizes that Nejat and Yeter are on the train next to them. Also, in the scene in which Nejat is giving a lecture, we see Ayten sleeping on her stomach in the same lecture hall. But again, these two characters are completely oblivious to each other’s presence. Therefore, in my opinion, all of these “failed encounters” imply the social aspects, in which Germans and Turkish people are internally connected with one another without coming into direct contact, yet influencing the other parties’ lives.

The film also implies how Germans and Turkish people reach a resolution, and can truly understand each other as one of the scenes show Susanne, holding Ayten tightly in her arms and forgiving Ayten. This scene indicates an effort to reconcile a relationship between Germany and Turkey as a whole: Susanne truly forgives Ayten, helps her to get out of a prison, and invites Ayten to stay with her, where she currently stays in Istanbul.

In conclusion, spaces play a crucial role in the film as they reflect historical facts of the relationship between Germany and Turkey. During the 1960s and 1970s, West Germany recruited massive Turkish guest workers in order to satisfy labor force, and as a result, both Germans and Turkish immigrants experienced inner problems such as rising racism and right wing extremism. Thus, by setting these two places in the film, it implies the attempts to establish the harmonious relationship between the two countries. Similarly, the title “on the other side” seems to have a dual meaning as it can be refer to spatial distinction between Germany and Turkey, but also can be refer to metaphorical expression as it can be interpreted as “try to put oneself in the shoes of the ‘the other side.'”

– Seri In

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