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:: Head-On (Gegen Die Wand)

“If you can’t change the world, change your world”, a psychiatrist quotes Australian band The The when counselling burned-out 40-year-old Cahit in writer-director Faith Akim’s award-winning film Head-On.

It seems like too much to ask of the wastrel, wasted Cahit. In a role that Turkish-German Akim wrote for him, Birol Ünel compels as this wrecked, Michael Hutchence-wannabe busboy of ambiguous sexuality, a Turkish immigrant who’s forgotten his language. But when Cahit enters into a marriage of convenience with suicidal Sibel (luminous newcomer Sibel Kekille) - a woman who’s desperate to escape her repressive Turkish family - a slow transformation begins.

Akim contrasts the awkwardness of life in this hard-hitting film (the proposal, the wedding), with nihilistic hedonism. Cahit dancing with slashed wrists at a rock concert is particularly memorable. Although it's grungy, Head-On avoids the indulgence of this genre; the darkness is an inevitable result of the characters’ headspace.
Head-On is both a love story and a passionate journey into life’s underbelly, informed by an exploration of the clash between secular and Islamic culture. Sometimes its funny, mostly it’s heart-stopping; towards the end it overstays its welcome. But this wild film deserved its seven 2004 Berlin Film Festival awards, which included the FIPRESCI Award and the Golden Bear.