Head-On (Gegen Die Wand)
After intentionally driving his car into a wall, Cahit (Birol Unel) is sent to a psychiatric clinic where he meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli). A fellow Turkish German like Cahit, Sibel is in the clinic for her attempted suicides. Out of nowhere Sibel proposes that the pair get married. Sibel knows that a traditional Turkish wedding is the only way she can escape her demanding family. Cahit ignores Sibel’s request at first but eventually agrees to the fake union. Although the pair live more like roommates than an actual married couple, Cahit cannot help but feel drawn to Sibel despite his better judgment.
Head-On is as much a tale of female independence as it is a story of two damaged souls finding love. Sibel would rather die than suffer another day of abuse at the hand of her family. The fake marriage provides her with freedom from both a mental and sexual standpoint. However Sibel’s story arc also hinders the film somewhat. There is a very dark section of the film where Sibel is on a self-destructive path. The scenes are tough to watch and break up the great flow that the film had previously established.
Fortunately Akin wisely steers the film back on track by focusing on Cahit and Sibel’s complex relationship. Both Unel and Kekilli give brilliant performances in their respective roles. Their interpretations of the characters allow the film to avoid many of the plot conventions that arise in similar films. The choices that each character makes by the end of Head-On feels natural instead of contrived. This is due to the fact that Akin takes his time to develop Cahit and Sibel’s unique relationship. He makes sure to factor in the cultural ramification along with the personal ones that they both face.
Stylistically speaking Akin makes some daring choices that pay off surprisingly well. Most notably the use of a chorus to introduce each act is rather effective. Besides sparingly utilizing freeze frames, Akin uses several tricks to help bring a lighter tone to parts of the film. Simple shots such as when the camera pans out as Sibel is walking down the street in her wedding dress gives the film moments of whimsy.
Although the needless detour in the third act into Sibel’s self-destructive side keeps the film from truly being great. Head-On is an extremely engaging film that turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
Head-On (Gegen Die Wand) is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by Anonymous.