Strand Releasing
Patrycia Ziolkowska, Nurgul Yesilcay in "The Edge of Heaven."
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN — *** — Baki Davrak, Nurgul Yesilcay, Hanna Schygulla; with English subtitles (European dialects); not rated, probable R (violence, profanity, slurs, brief sex, vulgarity, brief drugs, nude art)

You can sort of understand why screenwriter/director Fatih Akin chose to give "The Edge of Heaven" a couple of so-called "chapter headings."

It's a cinematic device that's sometimes used to break up time and location changes. And there are a couple of possibly jarring ones in this drama, a European import.

What you can't understand is, why did Akin use "chapter" titles that give away some crucial plot points? There's at least one particularly shocking bit here, and knowing that it is going to happen in advance does hurt the film a little.

Still, there are some very strong performances. One is by Baki Davrak who stars as Nejat Aksu, a German literature professor.

Nejat has a strained relationship with his father, Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), whose relationship with a prostitute, Yeter (Nursel Kose), has ended badly.

So, now Nejat is trying to track down the woman's estranged daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay). She's a would-be revolutionary who's fled Turkey to avoid prosecution.

Fortunately, she has found a place to stay — with a sympathetic German college student, Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), and her mother, Susanne (Hanna Schygulla).

Arguably, the plot is a little contrived. The coincidences do begin stacking up. (There are a number of times in which Nejat's and Ayten's paths nearly cross.)

And a lesbian subplot involving the Ayten and Lotte characters does feel forced and is unnecessary.

But what Akin says about parent-child relationships is perceptive, and the cast is very good. Veteran German actress Schygulla is the best of this lot, and she is heartbreaking as Lotte's possibly too-patient mother.

"The Edge of Heaven" is not rated but would probably receive an R for some brief, strong violence (a pair of accidental killings, including a shooting), strong sexual language (profanity, frank sex talk and slang), derogatory slurs, some based on nationality, a brief sex scene and other sexual contact, brief drug content (hashish), and glimpses of nude artwork. Running time: 116 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com