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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘Head-On’: A Blistering Modern Love Story Set in Hamburg, Germany

Movie poster for the film Head-On starring Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli

“Head-On” (“Gegen Die Wand”) is a kinetic love story set in Hamburg, Germany, and follows the star-crossed relationship between two Turkish emigrants: Cahit (Birol Ünel), a cantankerous, 40-something alcoholic and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), a younger first-generation German woman beset by clinical depression and the strict rule of her conservative family.

Aggrieved by the death of his wife, Cahit drowns himself in alcohol and drugs before barely surviving a car accident that lands him in a psychiatric hospital—where he first comes into contact with Sibel. A patient herself after a failed suicide attempt, Sibel is drawn to the older gentleman and propositions him with the opportunity to marry her and assist her escape from her domineering family members.

Agreeing upon the arrangement, Cahit soon finds himself living in frustrating co-habitation with the attractive young woman he has taken on as a platonic housemate, sparking acrimony and animosity before ultimately, unexpected romance blooms between the two fractured souls. Burgeoning passions spark newfound flame, yet dark clouds invariably loom for the barbarous couple.

Written and directed by celebrated Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin (“The Edge of Heaven”, “Goodbye Berlin”), “Head-On” is an energized and emotionally galvanizing creation, evolving over the course of its running time from frank and darkly comic to melancholy and profoundly moving. A highlight of Akin’s recurring theme of Turkish emigres (such as himself) residing in modern-day Germany, “Head-On” is one of his earlier and most commanding achievements—a resounding cross-cultural examination of heartache, reconciliation and human devotion.


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