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Gegen die Wand (Head On)

Gegen die Wand, which translates more literally as ‘against the wall’, a much more apt title, is a brilliant story of love and redemption.

Cahit (Birol Unel) is a washed-up 40-something German-Turkish ‘dosser’ with an alcohol problem. One night, he crashes his car into a wall. Sent to a clinic for the suicidal, he meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), who will do anything to escape her oppressive Turkish family, including asking Cahit to enter into a marriage of convenience. At first surly and distrustful, Cahit inevitably falls in love with Sibel, even though she is enjoying her new found freedom by pursuing one night stands and drugs.

So far, so Greencard, albeit with more sex and drugs. The first half of the film is very funny – Cahit’s visit to his prospective in-laws, complete with fake uncle and non-alcoholic chocolates, is a highlight. But one fatal mistake in a bar sends the film spinning off into another direction, and the second half is much more downbeat with Sibel’s flight to Istanbul and the problems she encounters there, leading to a bittersweet conclusion.

Written and directed by Fatih Akýn, Gegen die Wand manages to feel real and life-affirming, without ever becoming too heavy and miserable or too light and cheesy. It is a fine balance which is difficult to pull off, but Akýn succeeds, assisted by some very believable performances from his cast. The love story is very convincing, with the characters slowly realising their feelings for one another. The soundtrack, a fusion of traditional Turkish music and the kind of goth-rock you would expect to hear in German nightclubs, is perfect for the film.

This is not just the best German film ever made, it is one of the best films ever made anywhere in the world. It is impossible to praise this film highly enough.