17 05 2017

Perhaps the worst claim that can be leveled against Fatih Akin’s “The Cut” is that it fails to elicit a reaction proportional to the scope of its production. This story of a father, Tahar Rahim’s Nazaret, rendered mute during the Armenian genocide of World War I trying to reunite with his long-lost daughters has an epic scope. Take a look during the end credits, which run well over 10 minutes, at just how many crew members in how many countries came together to bring this story to life. This is a journey spanning decades, and Akin gives his film the sprawling canvas it needs.

And yet, while watching the film, I never really felt overwhelmed and enveloped by the sheer magnitude of “The Cut.” The film never flags in the forward motion of its storytelling or the firm humanist rooting of Rahim’s performance. I was compelled by every minute. Still … I wanted a little something more from it.

Akin’s direction is missing a sense of urgency. (It’s still leagues better than most filmic depictions of genocide – heck, many big-budget tentpoles downplay or flippantly dismiss it!) I’ll note that “The Cut” is not a film about the Armenian genocide so much as it’s a story of a father’s love diverted by the atrocity. But when you brooch such a weighty subject, you can’t just respond in the size of the production. It must also resonate in the gravity of individual decisions. B

F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 17, 2015)

17 09 2015

The Edge of HeavenFatih Akin had a bit of a rough go with the film festival circuit the last time around with his Armenian genocide drama “The Cut,” which received nearly unanimous pans out of Venice.  To my surprise, the film managed to secure U.S. distribution (I had all but given up hope of ever seeing it).

So in honor of throwback Thursday, I’ll take the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” column back to a time when Akin had much more success appealing to the festival crowds.  In 2007, his nation-hopping drama “The Edge of Heaven” took two prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and established Akin as a major name in European cinema. The film has the scope of a Soderbergh or Iñárritu multinational drama but does not aim for a grand global statement.

Instead, “The Edge of Heaven” resonates on a human scale.  Though the film jumps from Turkey to Germany and then back, the thematic focus is not on the borders that divide people.  Rather, Akin looks at the forces that unite and bind us together against the odds.  For these characters, those would be an odd combination of coincidence, missed opportunities, bad timing, and – ultimately – grief.

In its multiple segments, connected to each other by a character who appeared in another episode, “The Edge of Heaven” portrays numerous tragedies and calamities that befall people both good and bad.  There’s the tragic story of the prostitute Yeter (Nursel Köse), who just wants to help her estranged daughter Ayten (Nurgül Yeşilçay) back in her native Turkey.  But little does she know that Ayten fled Istanbul as a political dissident and seeks a country to grant her asylum.  Her quest to find a safe space ultimately draws in Ayten’s good-hearted German girlfriend Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkovska) as well as another German, Alisan (Baki Davrak), who seeks to help her as a service to Yeter.

If the web of interlocked narratives seems confusing in my verbose plot summary, it will not feel that way experiencing the nuances of story and emotion built into Akin’s script.  His is the rare film among the so-called “hyperlink cinema” trend that is more concerned with developing characters than finding ways for their paths to cross.