HEAD-ON (Gegen die Wand) (director/writer: Fatih Akin; cinematographer: Rainer Klausmann; editor: Andrew Bird; cast: Birol Unel (Cahit), Sibel Kekilli (Sibel), Catrin Striebeck (Maren), Guven Kirac (Seref), Cem Akin (Yilmaz Güner), Meltem Cumbul (Selma), Demir Gökgöl (Yunus Güner), Aysel Iscan (Birsen Güner), Stefan Gebelhoff (Nico), Hermann Lause (Dr. Schiller); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ralph Schwingel/Stefan Schubert; Strand Releasing; 2004-Germanyin German, English and Turkish with English subtitles)
“A gloomy fairy-tale version of a Hollywood romantic film that barely gets past its gloomy outlook on life.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A gloomy fairy-tale version of a Hollywood romantic film that barely gets past its gloomy outlook on life. The love story involves two Turkish immigrant fuck-ups living in Hamburg Germany, the fortysomething Cahit (Birol Unel) and the 24-year-old Sibel (Sibel Kekilli). The 31-year-old German-born Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin writes and directs this psychological drama with the forlorn feeling one can never return to their homeland except as a stranger and that love is strange. The film is set around a six-piece Turkish Gypsy ensemble dressed in tuxedos and a sexy female singer in a slit dress posed on chairs while playing on the banks of the Bosporus. They appear numerous times throughout the film, as their music follows the growing violent mood of the melodrama. In the final act, their lyrics “Have all those who have loved, lost their senses like me?” tries to put a spin on what this crazy love affair was all about. I liked the music much better than I liked the film.
Cahit is a disheveled alcoholic bum with an anger-management problem, who works nights picking up empty bottles at a Hamburg club. He’s still despondent over the loss of his first wife. While drunk and angry, he crashes his car into a wall and winds up wearing a neck brace in a clinic for patients with mental problems. There he meets the attractive Sibel, who failed in her attempt to slit her wrist. Sibel wants out from her overbearing conservative Turkish family’s house and can’t think of another way of leaving. Upon meeting Cahit, she asks to marry him. Her reasoning is that her folks will accept him because he’s Turkish. It leads to a marriage of convenience so she can go nightclubbing, get body piercings, snort cocaine, take lovers at will and feel free. As one can surmise, it leads to complications when they find they love each other but don’t know how to deal with that. Why they can’t deal with it seemed fuzzy reasoning to me, but since that’s the pic’s main point we’re left no choice but to believe that even though they’re married, physically attracted to each other, like each other’s company, and are soul mates in every way possible, yet somehow can’t make this arrangement work. I guess that defines what a fuck-up is.
It turns out Sibel has talent as a hairdresser and gives hubby a makeover, where he ends up looking like John Travolta. But the always drunk and insanely angry Cahit counters her hopes for the best by saying, “You can’t make a prince out of a peasant.” For the remainder of the film we will see how prophetic Cahit is as he goes into a rage and kills one of her lovers who was ragging on him. Fearing her Muslim old-world family will kill her because she dishonored them, Sibel flees to Istanbul to stay with her workaholic sister Selma. But the two are cut from different cloths and Sibel brings on some heavy damage to herself when she lives on her own, much like her hubby. It concludes, after many false endings, in what passes for a reasonably hopeful ending–that love is what it’s all about, no matter how messy it is– which is a hopeful ending considering how the bloody film was setup to avoid a happy ending.
Both stars gave energetic performances, likewise for the telling of the story. But energy alone does not make a film.
It was the winner of the 2004 Berlin Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 10/6/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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