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SIFF 2008, Blog #2

The Edge of Heaven
Dir. Fatih Akin
Emerging Masters Series

There have been so many recent films that could be compared to The Edge of Heaven due to its structure of intertwining stories. Crash, Short Cuts, Magnolia. But to do so, is misleading. The Edge of Heaven is not actually a story made up of stories that entertwine due to coincidence, but it really just one story, or one shared goal, to help Ayten.

In the first part of the film, titled the death of Yeter, Ali invites Yeter to live with him and in return he will pay her salary. Yeter is a Turkish prostitute in Germany. While living with Ali, she comes to know his son, Nejat, who is a professor. Due to the circumstances of Yeter's death, Nejat tries to find her daughter in Istanbul to fund her education.

Unbeknownst to him, Ayten has fled Turkey and is in Germany living with Lotte, who tries to help Ayten get political asylum. After another tragedy, the story winds back to Turkey ending in a German bookstore owned by Nejat, where Lotte's mother offers Ayten a place to sleep.

The Edge of Heaven is not a fast paced film, but it is engrossing. The details of Yeter, Nejat, Ayten, and Ali's lives are left vague. They reveal very little about their past or their present. And as they interact, I found myself hungry for more details. What are the circumstances that brought Ali, Ayten and Yeter to Germany? What has shaped Ayten's militant beliefs? I was frustrated by being given so little about these people, while being given so much.

In the end, I enjoyed this film, and was generally engrossed by the story, but was frustrated by not only the unwillingness to give much back story, but also by of the film's complete unwillingness to allow emotional involvement. I remained at a distance from these people, despite the films tragedies, like the shockingly sudden death of Yeter. I wanted to feel for these people, but I remained at a distance to them.

Fantastic Parasuicides
Dir. Park Soo-yeong, Jo Chang-ho, Kim Seong-ho
Contemporary World Cinema Series

I liked the title of this Korean movie, Fantastic Parasuicides. I tried to find it on IMDB, but failed to uncover much of anything about the film or the directors beyond knowing that it has three directors and is from South Korea. Well, we bought tickets after a glowing review from The Stranger.

Chuckle. Should have known better than to trust The Stranger.

This was bad. Really bad. It turns out that Fantastic Parasuicides is a comedy about attempted suicide. This could be a great topic for a comedy, bringing to mind some great scenes from Harold and Maude, but alas, very few laughs were found in this film. There were three segments, Hanging Tough about a school girl who wants to die after sleeping through an exam, Happy Birthday about a forgotten birthday, and Fly Away, Chicken about an officer who wants to end his life. This was one of those comic films that stacks ridiculousness on itself until the audience is simply exhausted and just wants it all to end. Like in Hanging Tough, all of Gina's teachers try to kill themselves and she is desperate to stop each of them, but instead just gets herself shot, married, killed, etc, but after each plot twist, she wakes from a dream. By the end, there is no telling what one is supposed to believe.

The same is true for Happy Birthday. It wasn't packed full of dream sequences, but of on forgotten birthday that leads to the main characters death, that all might be a birthday prank. But the most off putting aspect of Happy Birthday was the gay and cross dressing content. I have no idea what to take away from the main character who is a man, referred to as mother and comments on a young man's cute bottom. My problem here is I suspect the cultural context. I don't know if the movie is laughing at this ridiculousness or not. I found it irritating.

I did sorta like aspects of the middle film, Fly Away, Chicken. A man in uniform puts a gun to his head, ready to pull the trigger. But he is interrupted; phone calls, odd men fighting outside, a woman in a wedding dress watching. But at one point, he is walking on the beach and encounters a chicken tangled in a net. He clucks to the chicken, sympathizing with the chicken's predicament, in chicken language. I thought this was quite funny.

But the rest, no so much. Just tedious. Sigh.


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