Reviewed by: Symon Parsons

Cahit is a foul-mouthed, beer-drinking, self-destructive Turkish immigrant in Germany. Divorced from his own culture and not accepted by his adopted one, he spirals out of control following the death of his wife. In despair, he drives head-on into a wall.

Sibel is the daughter of a strictly traditional Turkish family, who slits her wrists after being beaten by her family for behaving like a German girl. When she encounters Cahit at the counselling centre, she determines to marry him. This will allow her to keep up the facade of a traditional Turkish married life, while giving her the freedom she craves.

Cahit reluctantly agrees, despite his best friend's misgivings. He grumpily maintains that he doesn't want the girl to kill herself. They embark on the faux marriage, while continuing their own sex lives, but when Cahit starts to feel genuine love for the girl, emotions and jealousies threaten to destroy them both.

Fatih Akin (director of Im Juli and more recently seen acting in Das Experiment) has written a deeply personal work. It is the powerful story of lost identity and play-acting, set in Germany's Turkish subculture, where drugs and drink take their toll on traditional values. It's a story of wanting to be Turkish in Germany and German in Turkey. It's also a complex and tender love story.

Akin explores the contradictory nature of Turkish culture in Germany - the temptations, the restrictions, the racism and the double standards. Cahit has forgotten his own language, contemptuous of those who shun alcohol, yet visit brothels so long as they never touch Turkish women. Meanwhile, Sibel embraces German hedonism, but when things fall apart, her only comfort is in a Turkish folk song.

Sibel Kekilli gives a great performance as a young woman, driven to despise herself, whose only release is in one-night stands, and writer/director Akin creates incredible intensity between her and co-star Birol Unel, as Cahit. Unel has a mournful weariness about him and his performance as a man on the brink of destruction, whose only hope is to save Sibel, is heartbreaking.

Head On - its native title, Gegen die Wand, means Against The Wall - does for the Turkish community in Germany what Once Were Warriors did for the Maori in New Zealand. It's a healthy dose of living, breathing reality on celluloid. Often brutal, cruel and vicious, at its core it is full of love, both for the main characters and for their culture.

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2005
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Love and anguish amongst Turkish immigrants in Germany.
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Director: Fatih Akin

Writer: Fatih Akin

Starring: Birol Ünel, Sibel Kekilli, Catrin Striebeck, Meltem Cumbul, Zarah McKenzie, Stefan Gebelhoff, Francesco Fiannaca, Mona Mur, Ralph Misske, Philipp Baltus, Hermann Lause

Year: 2004

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany/Turkey


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