A story is a collection of choices. A choice creates a character, and similarly, it breaks them. In familiar narratives, a character makes a choice and then defends it with his/her life. But sometimes, in an extension of specific narratives, a character walks on his chosen path but, due to a tragedy, transforms into something he promised not to pursue. The protagonist in the film Edge of the World portrays a similar character.
Directed by Michael Haussman, the film is a period drama that showcases the true story of James Brooke, also known as the Rajah of Sarawak (Malaysian state). Brooke was also an inspiration for the famous story The Man Who Would Be King written by Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim. Thus, one can perceive the significance of his journey.
Sultan of Brunei is the ruler of an island jungle, three times the size of the British island. His domain seethes with revolt when he fails to defend the tribes against Lanun Pirates. The Sultan has been a constant contributor of gold and coal to the Majesty, the queen, and the British Empire. In dire need, he seeks help from the same.
Colonel Arthur Crookshank and Sir James Brooke from the British army arrive at Sarawak, Borneo, to suppress the revolt and help Sultan to fight the pirates. The real intention, however, was to keep the supply chain to the British empire intact.
Crookshank and James meet Prince Makota, Governor of Sarawak, and his cousin, Prince Badruddin. Sultan is without a male heir, and after his departure, Makota and Badruddin are expected to inherit the throne. But before that, they need to reunite the tribes and fight off pirates.
With the help of ammunition, guns, and cannon, the English men fight off the pirates. Still, James quickly learns about Makota’s intention to overshadow his cousin and takes the throne. Badruddin isn’t interested in the throne, but he insists James become the Rajah of Sarawak. His decision leads the narrative further and decides the fate of Sarawak.
‘Edge of the World’ Ending Explained
James Brooke accepted the leadership of Sarawak because he wanted to reform slavery and put an end to their savageness. He defied Makota’s barbarous headhunting and killings. He disliked that man and hated him to the core and couldn’t bear the sight of him ruling Sarawak. There could be numerous reasons for James to become Rajah of Sarawak. What was fortunate, that he accepted the title.
Ruling the kingdom of Sarawak, James tried his best to reform the tribes, bring civility and discretion to the community. Everything was looking hopeful until Makota returned. He came to avenge his insult and snatch the throne from James.
In his pride, he killed James’s English friend, Crookshank, and his cousin, Badruddin. The two deaths in a row shattered James both emotionally and mentally. He became everything he promised himself not to be. James turned into alter ego. He quoted, “To rule the jungle, I must love the jungle.” A hint of accepting wildness.
James made a definitive choice, adverse to his nature. He became savage and brutally ripped off Makota’s head in the ending sequence, putting an end to the rebellion.
After killing Makota, James gave Bedruddin’s ring to his cousin Charles. It was a gesture to hand over the rulership to Charlie. Why?
James made a conscious choice by ripping off Makota’s head. But it was not a choice he was proud of. It made him more Makota than James. It was against the principles and morals James believed in. He considered himself unfit to rule. A savage Rajah couldn’t preach peace, he felt. That’s why, while handing the ring, James quoted, “You are the boy I used to be, Charlie.” It meant Charles was still left with the innocence required to lead a sovereign nation, but James couldn’t. He made a choice. He cannot redeem himself now.
After James’s death, his nephew, Rajah Charles, governed Sarawak. Charles’ son ruled the island until the Japanese invaded Malaysia during world war 2. Today, the state is a part of the Federation of Malaysia.
Edge of the World is a 2021 period drama film directed by Michael Haussman.