"Our stylishly dirty hair is finally attracting the attention it deserves."

© 2004, Strand Releasing
All Rights Reserved

After pursuing a very non-traditional suicide attempt, 40-something alcoholic Cahit (Birol Ünel) meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) at a Hamburg clinic. Like Cahit, Sibel is a second generation Turk living in Hamburg. But, unlike Cahit, Sibel has her conservative Turkish family inflicting conventions, which drives her to commit her own countless attempts at suicide.

Fatih Akin's new film "Head-On" ("Gegen die Wand") (IMDb listing) is a spot-on portrayal of the difficulties faced –- especially -– by second and third generation Turkish people living in Germany. While older generations cope with the European culture by sticking firmly to traditions and closing their eyes to modern norms, younger generations have a hard time incorporating customs of the West with those of their conservative elders. Although their counterparts living in Turkey accustom themselves to less conservative standards, families living abroad try to hold on to their values by imposing stricter codes on their offspring.

In "Head-On" Sibel, faced with this very strict conservatism, sees getting married to a random Turkish man as the only way out. The minute they meet, Sibel asks Cahit to marry her. While this marriage is a free ticket for unquestioned one-night stands for Sibel, it is a chance at being good for Cahit. Sibel needs this marriage to flee from her traditional parents and dominant brother. Cahit accepts it only because it will help with rent. At first the only thing they share is their little flat, but as the story evolves their relationship becomes one of obsession. Sibel's sexual escapades send Cahit into a frenzy when he realizes that she means more to him than cooked meals and a neat apartment.

In contrast to Cahit's child-like and trusting character, Sibel is scared of intimacy, running away the minute someone shows her affection. She refuses to have sex with Cahit, claiming that if they do they will become husband and wife. For her, sex should be nothing more than a game, and each man nothing more than a toy that she gets bored with after a while. As Cahit and Sibel go to Turkey in the last act of the film, we realize that they have both matured in their own way.

The anticipated ending takes nothing away from the movie, instead it spells realism. Each character in the film -- from Cahit's pseudo-uncle Seref (Güven Kirac) to Sibel's brother Yilmaz (Cem Akin) -- delivers their roles with sincerity. Altogether, the film delicately portrays German and Turkish cultures with comedy and tragedy .

The film's success doesn't lie in the fact that the story progresses as expected or because the characters are one of us, but because each element -- from the traditional Turkish wedding to the obsessed husband-promiscuous wife duo -- is executed with great candor and precision.

Filmfodder Grade: B