Monday, June 26, 2006

Cinema: Gegen die Wand

In ‘Gegen die Wand’ (Head-On), Sibel and Cahit meet in a Hamburg hospital, both are recovering from suicide attempts; he by driving his car head-on against a wall, she by slitting her wrists. The other thing they have in common is that both are from the immigrant Turkish community, whose values the twenty-something Sibel desperately wants to be free of. She sees Cahit, who is in his mid-forties and works as a glass collector in a nightclub, as an escape route and promptly asks him to marry her, an offer he begins to entertain when she promises him a night of drinking away from the hospital. But it is another suicide attempt by Sibel, and not beer, that compels Cahit to act and the pair go through with the marriage, which her parents agree to solely on the basis that he is Turkish, an indication of their desperation to cling on to some remnant of their culture. After the wedding, which is both traditional and cocaine-fuelled, Sibel makes good on her dream of dancing, drinking and fucking, all in the presence of an increasingly jealous Cahit, whose response is to booze more heavily than usual (which is saying a lot) and to attack one of Sibel’s lovers, inadvertently killing him. This causes the fiction of their marriage to be exposed in a tabloid newspaper and the pair are split up as Cahit is sent down and Sibel, ostracised by her family, heads to Istanbul.
The film seemed to lose its way at this point. The contingent, uprooted life Sibel and Cahit live is plausible and affecting, but the Istanbul segment is forced and too dramatic as the pair are briefly re-united.

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