16 February 2005 | noralee
A Thrilling Roller Coaster Ride of Love and Loss
"Head On (Gegen die Wand)" is a completely original love story and shames conventional Hollywood romantic comedies with its fresh take on love and loss as rich as Rhett and Scarlett.
The closest I can think of a dysfunctional couple meeting so oddly cute and playing out an unusual relationship is in Christopher Fry's "The Lady's Not for Burning" which shares self-destructive lovers. The German literal title of "Against the Wall" is more resonant of how they feel, but the American distributors probably thought that had too much political implication.
The completely self-involved he and she here are innately off-kilter because writer/director Faith Akin sets them within a diverse Turkish immigrant community of Germany, so that their personalities are circumscribed by cultural expectations and restrictions, she chafing against binds on women and he lost in the nihilistic punk rock underground.
The rocky journey of how they find their own individuality within their sexual and emotional needs and ethnic identity and what each means to the other is an unpredictable thrill ride as each unexpected action leads to tears, laughter, poignancy and regret of bad timing. This is a baldly brash and frank exploration of the meaning of love and marriage, as individuals and within a web of family, friends and culture.
Craggy-faced Birol Ünel is riveting as the older, burned-out case whose past we only glimpse. Sibel Kekilli at first seems like just another pretty young thing, but brings spunk and sympathy on her maturing roller coaster ride. Evidently, deleted scenes that are available on the European DVD help to expand on the hints as to what her closing motivations are.
Dependant on the English subtitles, I'm sure I lost some significances as I wasn't sure when characters were speaking Turkish or German, let alone able to discern their fluency in either, with the added fillip of recognition of globalization with a sudden concluding discussion in Istanbul in English of their future.
The chapter introductions by an ethnic band playing a traditional sad love song adds to the timeliness of the tale that is reminiscent of old folk ballads of tragic love stories. In between, the punk rock and contemporary world fusion selections are terrific, including the moving closing song.