18 Jun 2024

Head On

Head-On, by Fatih Akin, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 2004, marked the film debut of actress Sibel Kekilli, who is present this year at TIFF as a member of the official competition jury. The actress will be present at the special screening of the film, and at the end, she will also participate in a discussion with the audience.

Cahit is a self-destructive drunkard, and Sibel is an explosive young woman who desperately wants to escape the constraints of her family. If you can't change the world, change your own world. That's what the doctor says and is quickly labeled as crazy. Both endeavors seem hopeless in the film that put Fatih Akin on the map of cinematic heavyweights. Accompanied by a Turkish band situated on the Bosphorus and singing outdated love ballads, Head-On takes place in Germany. But Mother Turkey is never far away, neither in the soundtrack nor in mentality.

What happens when you mix chaos with tradition, punk with the Balkans? The freshness of a young woman who refuses to fit into the expectations of a traditional family with the jadedness of a mature man for whom fitting in no longer makes sense. Cahit and Sibel meet in the hospital. Both had attempted suicide. He crashed his car into a wall, she cut her wrists, not lengthwise as she should have. They both leave the hospital and marry as a formality, to appease her family. Head-On is an accident seen in slow motion, with people trying, chaotically and impulsively, taking very wrong but hellishly human paths to save themselves.

Much of the film is about a girl too impulsive who has attached herself to a man who does her no good. Much of the film is about a broken man burdened with a girl who finally drives him crazy. "I Feel You," the Depeche Mode song that connects them in a mirror, is just one piece of a soundtrack as agitated as the characters, and is a perfect description of the film. "You take me to and lead me through Babylon. This is the morning of our love." The oppressive rhythm is always felt. Only the end, like a cover, breathes fresh air; the question is whether you still want it at that point. The rest is tears, blood, sweat, and alcohol.

Fatih Akin signs one of the most penetrating love stories, which you don't have time to unpack in terms of morality, gender discussions, or society – although all are abundantly present. Head-On has the desperation of a fist hitting a glass and all the shards piercing the skin, and that feels good. First of all, because it feels. Sometimes pain is necessary to see more clearly. Some people (and some countries?) need to fall to finally have the strength to rise.