On The Edge Of Happiness
I discovered the Bulgarian characters of the film during one of my daily walks. What struck me immediately was the almost voyeuristic attitude of the passers-by towards these people living in a barrack behind the lattice fence. It looked to me as kind of prison or a human zoo.
Most people not only pass by the barracks, but they also ignore the essence of what’s going on inside.
But I want to go inside. I want to take the viewer into the life of these contemporary ‘misérables’.
Stefan, Niki and their families came to Belgium with a lot of great expectations.
But there is little to lose when one has nothing. Except hope. But isn’t that an illusion they created themselves? How can one wait for nothing? How is that fatality inevitable? They need jobs in order to move forward. But to be allowed to work they need a domicile address. To be able to rent, they need money, hence work. This is a vicious social-economic circle in their fate.
A second vicious circle emerges from this first one and has a contemplative aspect: the daily struggle with impotence, causing the illusion to melt even faster, which is in sync with a kind of passive acquiescence. One tends to settle with these circumstances after a while. It is a way of life that has become a kind of survival logic. It's an alternating psychological engine of cause and effect; of letting go and thereby letting the situation escalate.
I am astonished about the fact that only 200 meters further from their home, there are the abandoned, shielded residential blocks of the social housing company around the corner. All empty.
Niki and Stefan, as many others, don’t want to inhabit a building without permission. I admire that, but I don’t understand it, given the situation. Without any sanitary, electricity or heating, the residents in the barrack pull themselves together with each other’s company, friendship, dreams, hope and fate in expectation of enough scraps of iron and a better life someday.
Our fragmented Europe pretends to be a democratic and especially a social example to the world, but unfortunately, it fails.
The matter is complex. But our characters in Ghent (and so many elsewhere) want to move forward.
I would like to open a discussion with this film and give a nuanced insight. The micro- biotope of the barrack and the domain on which it stands, give me the opportunity to create a universe without the stamp of a city.
This anonymity reflects the no man’s land context in which the characters live, therefore the story of On the Edge of Happiness is applicable and relevant to any European city, without distinction.
We’ve seen many films on migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, but On the Edge of Happiness is different, it's about migration within Europe itself.
As I believe there aren't many films (if not no films) about inter-European migration, this film gives the opportunity to discover and possibly analyse a topic that is still widely unknown and understated.
Unfortunately as long as Eastern and Western Europe continue to sail at different speeds, the situation will get only more unbearable for the weak.