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Movies: ‘Heaven’: Effortlessly Edgy

Ann Hornaday
The Washington Post

“The Edge of Heaven” is the movie “Babel” so badly wanted to be.

Written and directed by the enormously gifted Fatih Akin, “The Edge of Heaven” deals with many of the same themes of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s over-praised 2006 film (globalization, cultural misunderstanding, random acts of violence) but engages them so honestly, with such fluency and sophistication, that what in “Babel” was a fuzzy-headed tract becomes sheer poetry. An intercontinental, interlocking roundelay of six people, some German, some of Turkish descent living in Germany, possesses the searing ironies of an O. Henry story.

The contingencies and coincidences that animate their lives would be the stuff of outlandish contrivance were it not for the film’s effortless, unforced style. Akin is clearly capable of bravura filmmaking (he favors long takes and masterful traveling shots) without showing off. Rather, every unhurried, thoughtful move is made in the name of deepening the audience’s understanding of his characters, who grapple with politics, repentance and finally forgiveness on the most searingly personal level.

“The Edge of Heaven” is propelled by memorable performances by mostly unknown actors. The most famous of the ensemble, Hanna Schygulla, delivers a by turns serene and shattering performance as a mother struggling with loss, conscience and the first glimmers of unexpected connection. She’s only one essential and unforgettable part of a flawless whole.

“The Edge of Heaven” Unrated, 122 minutes. Contains profanity, suggestive sexuality and violence. In German, Turkish and English with subtitles.