February 7, 2005
Into the Wall
I was going to wait to write about Head On until it got a wider US release, but since that might never happen, I'll just do it now. David Edelstein from Slate, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite movie critics, starts his review with this: "Here's a cute idea for Valentine's Day: Take your sweetie to the ferociously compelling German-Turkish love story Head On , and then, when the credits roll, whisper, 'Our relationship has problems, but at least it's not like that wreck.'" The original German title is Gegen die Wand, which translates literally as "into the wall."
One of the darker love stories (sort of) I've ever seen, Head On is full of anger, blood, self-destruction, weirdly animalistic sex, and some real tenderness too, which comes as a big surprise compared to the way the main characters normally express themselves, which is by throwing beer cans. The movie follows two Germans from Turkish families, Cahit and Sibel, from their initial meeting in a psychiatric institution where they both land after half-hearted suicide attempts. Recent reviews (NYT, Voice) go into a lot of detail about the plot, but I don't want to give away too much. Suffice to say that at their wedding (it's a marriage of convenience to satisfy Sibel's oppressive and traditional Turkish family) when the couple goes into their private room where they're supposed to consummate their marriage and eat their special wedding foods, they instead each do a line of cocaine and sit there staring blankly at the wall.
What follows is an impressively screwed up love story that doesn't follow any script or pattern we're used to seeing. As Edelstein writes, we're accustomed to seeing movie couples fall madly in love, "but there's madly and there's infuckingsanely." Sometimes intensely bleak movies end up being somewhat uplifting, at least because they make your own more mild dysfunctions seem perfectly acceptable by comparison. This one does that, and also ends with a sense of redemption that can be visually understood by Cahit's physical transformation, from this:
The movie also features many club scenes shot in Hamburg. German-Turks really like to dance to Sisters of Mercy.
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