The Edge of Heaven (2007)

The film highlights the precariousness of life and the unpredictable turns that can lead to unexpected encounters due to the forces beyond our control which can shape the trajectory of our lives.

8/23/20235 min read

Patrycia Ziolkowska and Nurgul Yesilcay in 'The Edge of Heaven'
Patrycia Ziolkowska and Nurgul Yesilcay in 'The Edge of Heaven'

German, Turkish, English

123 minutes, 2007

Director: Fatih Akin

Cast: Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz, Nursel Kose, Hanna Schygulla, Nurgul Yesilcay, Patrycia Ziolkowska

Awards: Winner Best Screenplay, Nominee Palme d ‘Or, Winner Ecumenical Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival, 2007; Winner European Screenwriter, European Film Awards, 2007; Winner, Lino Brocka Award, International Competition, Cinemanila International Film Festival, 2007; Winner Best Supporting Actress (Hanna Schygulla), National Society of Film Critics (NSFC), USA; 4 wins and 1 Nomination, German Film Awards, 2007; Total 37 Wins and 22 nominations.

This Turkish-German drama weaves a rich tapestry of emotions, cultures, and destinies, leaving an indelible mark on the audiences' minds. The film is divided in the three parts. The first part starts with a man filling up fuel in his car and leaving city. He is Nejat Aksu. Ali Aksu (Tuncel Kurtiz), a Turkish immigrant, lives with his son Nejat Aksu (Baki Devrak) in the German city of Bremen. He is retired and widower. His son teaches German Literature in Germany. He takes liking to a Turkish Prostitute living in Germany, Yeter (Nursel Kose) and invites her to come and live with him as he feels lonely. Yeter, after a showdown with two fanatic Turkish Muslims who does not want her to work as prostitute since she is a Muslim, considers Ali’s offer seriously. Ali introduces her to his son and they have dinner together. After dinner, Yeter tells Nejat that she was a prostitute. Same night, Ali suffers a heart attack and he is admitted to hospital. While returning from hospital, Yeter tells Nejat that she has a 27 year old daughter who is studying in Turkey who is told that Yeter works in a shoe factory. To support her story, Yeter sends her shoes from time to time. Yeter starts living in Ali’s house with Nejat.

After some days, Ali returns to home and gets into an altercation with Yeter because he thinks Yeter has slept with Nejat. He gets drunk and demands sex from Yeter when Nejat is not at home. He hits her which leads her to fall in such a way that she dies. Ali is sent to prison and Nejat travels to Istanbul to search for Yeter’s daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay). He goes to police station in search but police appear suspicious as to why is he searching for her and why he wants to support her education. We do not know yet, why police is suspicious. He, along with his cousin Ufuk (Erkan Can) stick flyers with Yeter’s photograph hoping that someone would contact them.

The second part starts with a protest where a policeman loses his gun to protestors and a girl protestor takes the gun and runs away. She is Ayten Ozturk, Yeter’s daughter. She hides on a rooftop and escapes police. She is supposedly a member of some anti- government resistance group. She flees Turkey and takes refuge in Hamburg, Germany with the help of some fellow members of the resistance group. She borrows money from one of the members and goes to Bremen to look for her mother, Yeter. Unable to find her mother’s phone number, she searches various shoe shops in Bremen which obviously doesn’t yield any result. On returning back to Hamburg, she has fallout with fellow comrades and is forced to live on streets. She goes to university and asks money from a student Charlotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), known better as ‘Lotte’. They develop a friendship and Lotte allows her to stay at her home. She also lends Ayten her clothes. Lotte's welcoming a complete stranger at their home is not liked by her mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla) who lives with her. Both, Lotte and Ayten become lovers and start searching for Ayten's mother.

On a night, during a traffic check, police stop car since Ayten is not wearing her seat belt. They proceed to check IDs and Ayten develops cold feet. She attempts to run away and is captured. She appeals for political asylum but German court rules it out saying that she has no legitimate fear and threat of death. Ayten is deported and arrested by Turkish authorities. Lotte is shattered and decides to go to Turkey against her mother’s wishes. There, she learns that Ayten could remain in prison for around 15 to 20 years and Lotte is not allowed to visit Ayten since she is not her relative. Susanne, her mother, asks her to return back but Lotte refuses. Susanne then tells her that Lotte has to cope up herself and she wouldn’t support her. Lotte lands up at Nejat’s bookstore, a German language bookstore which he had purchased from a German wanting to sell it off and return to Germany. Nejat offers her to stay on rent which she accepts. After few months, Lotte is granted the permission to visit Ayten in Prison. During meeting, Ayten gives her the address of the building where she has hidden the gun. Lotte recovers the revolver but her handbag, with gun inside, is snatched by street children. She runs after them and locates them when they are emptying her handbag. She asks those boys to return the bag and the gun. One of them fires a shot at her, which kills her instantly. This sparks international situation and Ayten is questioned. She is taken aback at the revelation that Lotte has died. This ends the second part of the film.

The third part starts with a dramatic scene in which Ali, after release from German prison, is deported from Germany and Susanne is arriving in Turkey for her daughter’s funeral at the same time on airport. Susanne stays in Lotte’s room at Nejat Aksu’s home. She then visits Ayten in prison. On seeing her Ayten cries profusely and asks Susanne to forgive her. Susanne tells her that it was Lotte’s wish and mission to get Ayten out of Prison and it is Susanne’s wish now that she comes out of prison. Ayten, exercises her right of repentance and gets freedom. During ‘Bayram’, Nejat asks Susanne to look after his bookshop and goes to see his father, who he learns from his cousin, Ufuk, is living in Trabzon. When Nejat arrives in Trabzon, he is informed that Ali has gone to sea for fishing but will come soon as sea is getting rough now. Film ends with Nejat sitting on beach, waiting for his father.

‘The Edge of Heaven’ thus follows the lives of intersecting characters, exploring themes of love, loss, forgiveness, and redemption. Akin’s direction shines as he seamlessly juxtaposes different narratives, gradually revealing the threads that bind these characters’ fates together. The performances are excellent. Ali played by Tuncel Kurtiz and Susanne played by Hanna Schygulla are especially superb. Hanna won many awards as best supporting actress for her portrayal.

About the director, Fateh Akin:

Born in August, 1973, in Hamburg Germany, Fatih is son of Turkish parents. He was raised in Hamburg and graduated from University of Fine Arts of Hamburg in ‘Visual communication’. Even though he graduated in 2000, he took to filmmaking quite early and made his first short film in 1995. Next year he followed it up with another one and soon in 1998 he made his first full length feature film, ‘Short, Sharp Shock’ which won ‘Bronze leopard’ at Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland and ‘Pierrot’, the award for ‘Best Young Director’ at Bavarian Film Festival, Munich.

After that he made ‘In July’ in year 2000, an interesting road-movie, ‘We Forgot to go Back’ in 2001 and ‘Solino’, an Italian-German movie in 2002. However, his fourth feature ’Head-on’ gave him widespread recognition as a director of serious talent. This film won ‘Golden Bear’ at Berlin Film Festival and ‘Best Film’ and ‘Audience Award’ at the ‘European Film Awards’. In 2005 he made a documentary titled ‘Crossing the Bridge: The sound of Istanbul’ about music scene in Isanbul. Interestingly, the narration is given by Alexander Hacke, a member of German Band, “Einsturzende Neubauten” which scored music for the film ‘Head-on’.

In 2007, he made ‘The Edge of Heaven’ which was very well received and decorated as mentioned in the awards’ list above. He continues to make films and was awarded ‘Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany’ by the government of Germany for his contribution in highlighting issues faced by Turkish-German citizens.