Head-on (Gegen die Wand, 2004)

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Text by Jessica de Bloom

Cahit Tomruk (Birol Ünel) is the main male character in Fatih Akins movie Head-on, originally titled Gegen die Wand (2004). Heavily depressed after the death of his wife, the Turkish-German forty-something year old man spends his time in late night bars surviving on a diet of alcohol and cocaine and living as if there was no tomorrow. After a suicide attempt, he wakes up in a psychiatric ward and meets Sibel Güner (Sibel Kikelli), a Turkish-German woman who has also tried to kill herself…

Sibel asks Cahit to marry her so that she would be able to break out of the strict rules of her conservative Turkish family. Sibel’s plan is to live separate lives as flatmates with Cahit, which would free her from the expectations and conventions of her tradition-bound Muslim family. After initial hesitations, Cahit agrees to the sham marriage and Sibel moves into his flat.

“A marriage of convenience in which love is highly inconvenient” (following Katy Karpfinger’s wording), gradually unfolds into a romance. Through the comic scenes and conversations, the viewer is almost willing to believe that there is a possibility of a happy ending for this unlikely love story. Until things take a different turn…

This movie deals with second-generation Turkish immigrants living in Germany, torn between the West and the East. It is about love and hate, life and death, joy and misery, destruction and renewal, freedom and the search of identity while trapped between cultures. Critics such as Karpfinger and Matthew Leyland, respectively, have described the movie as “unapologetic in its violence, brutal, raw and uncompromising, but also hilariously funny”; and as a film “that’s part comedy, part tragedy and filled with a sense of edgy surprise.”

Akin’s movie seems to suggest that life begins when we push boundaries, leave routine behind, take risks and live outside the comfort zone. Only by inviting misery and despair into our lives are we able to experience and cherish true happiness and fulfilment.

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About the director:

Fatih Akin (1973) is a Turkish German film director, screenwriter and producer living in Hamburg. His debut film Short sharp shock [Kurz und schmerzlos] was awarded in Germany and Switzerland. Gegen die Wand (2004) was his fourth movie and he received several famous awards such as the “Golden Bear” at the Berlin Film Festival and “Best Film” and the “Audience Award” at the European Film Awards. Akin’s work recurrently deals with struggles and confusions of immigrants (in particular immigrants of Turkish decent) in modern Germany. His work pictures strangers living in strange countries in search of a personal identity between cultures.