After a heavy night of drinking, Cahit (Birol Unel), a 40-year-old Berliner of Turkish descent on a path of self-destruction, drives his car head-on into a wall. He enters a psychiatric clinic where he meets, Sibel (Sibel Guner). Eager to escape the constraints of her strict Muslim Turkish-German family, Sibel had attempted suicide and in Cahit she sees a means to freedom, via a marriage of convenience, in which they would live separate lives. He immediately tells her to piss off, but she's determined and eventually, still reluctantly, he agrees to the union. He even passes the family test, barely, and once officially married, their chaotic lives continue on their dislocated, dangerous ways. But even more problems arise when gradually they begin to fall in love. Inevitably with love comes complications, and soon jealousy and violence threaten to separate them forever.
Review by Louise Keller:
An uncompromising and hard-hitting love story, Head-On is the story of two misfits, who inspire each other to find a new life. After smashing his car head-on into a wall, Cahit is taken to a psychiatric clinic where he meets Sibel who has attempted suicide. She asks Cahit to marry her, as a way to escape from her strict Muslim Turkish-German family, but when they begin to fall in love, complications arise. Outstanding performances from Birol Unel and Sibel Kekilli, this 2004 Golden Bear winner is a powerhouse of a film.
'If you can't change the world, you can change your world,' the psychiatrist tells Cahit, a young man with rebellion painted on his face. Marrying a girl who is suicidal, while struggling with his own demons and the loss of his wife may not seem an ideal plan, but when her parents reluctantly approve, Cahit doesn't seem to care. There are incongruous images as Sibel, still wearing her white wedding gown, sits at a bar, a forelorn bride with nowhere to sleep. Quickly, she and Cahit come to a working understanding of their relationship, as they begin to lead their own lives. 'I'm gonna get laid,' Sibel tells her husband excitedly, as she is about to leave a disco they have gone to together.
Although Cahit and Sibel are such flawed characters, Unel and Kekilli inject such vitality in them both, making us really care for them. The intensity of the cultural complexities come crashing down as Sibel is disowned by her family. Time passes, but our commitment to the two characters remains. The storyline delivers sharp u-turns when you least expect it, making this tough film brave and confronting at the same time. Unel and Kekilli are magnificent together, and it's remarkable to learn that this is Kekilli's first film.
Not to be confused with Head On, Ana Kokinos' 1998 film starring Alex Dimitriades about a Greek-Australian teenager coming to terms with his own sexuality, Head-On bears all the credentials of a film whose multi-cultural ingredients and themes break down the barriers of its German origin.
There are deleted scenes, outtakes, an interview with Fatih Akin and a Making Of feature on the DVD.
Published October 20, 2005
Email this article
HEAD-ON: DVD (MA)
Gegen die Wand
CAST: Birol Unel, Sibel Kekilli, Catrin Striebeck, Guven Kirac, Meltem Cumbul,
PRODUCER: Stefan Schubert
DIRECTOR: Fatih Akin
SCRIPT: Fatih Akin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rainer Klausman
EDITOR: Andrew Bird
MUSIC: Maceo Parker & others
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tamo Kunz
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane: February 3, 2005 (other states to follow)
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes; what is an Osman; outtakes; making of and interview with Fatih Akin; trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: October 12, 2005