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4.0 out of 5 stars
Head-On [Gegen die Wand]
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
For viewers of Hollywood films about marriages of convenience that turn into romantic comedies, this is not another one of those. Which is not to say that the kind of romance that develops between the two central characters doesn't have far reaching effects - living happily together ever after not being among them. Each in his way is redeemed by love, and the viewer is taken along on a long, long journey with many turns, often difficult to absorb. If anything, the film represents the painful conflict at the heart of many Turks living as expatriates in Europe.

The "head-on" car crash that brings the two protagonists together is also about a whiplash collision of cultures that are not only separated by a great distance but also by centuries. It is not surprising that in these circumstances both characters are driven to extremes of behavior. That Cahit and Sibel survive the ordeals they have gone through is partly the result of what they begin to feel for each other, but also important is a return to Turkey where each finds some measure of personal integrity.

The performances in this film are breathtaking. Birol ?nel as Cahit is a Turkish Klaus Kinski with the mercurial "good looks" of Mick Jagger. He is a stormy presence on the screen (and apparently on the set as well) and delivers a disturbing portrayal of self-destructiveness. Sibel Kekilli's peformance is equally astonishing. The DVD has no director's commentary (which would have been interesting), but it includes a number of deleted scenes and out-takes, and an informative and entertaining "making of" featurette by an intern who worked on the film.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2005
I first saw Head On at a small International film festival shortly after it's theatrical release, and fell in love with it almost immediately! This is by far the best move if the year, and a strong contender for my top 5 movies of all time. It's wide ranging appeal, from the intellectual international crowd who will drool over the interpersonal relationships of the Turkish-German main characters and the cultural aspects of two young, and slightly twisted people dealing with their overly traditional families, to a younger crowd who can appreciate this movie as simply a rocking kick-in-the-pants punk love story, I'm convinced that nearly everyone who sees this movie will love it!! 5 Stars, would give it more if I could! And let's not forget a shout out to Sybel Kekilli, who is one of the most beautiful women on the planet!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2005
Always an intoxicating feast for the senses, and at times downright shocking, Head On is quite a departure for Germany's up-and-coming Turkish director Faith Akin. Previously known for kitsch comedies (Im Juli/In July) and touching dramadies (Solino), Akin plunges into his first overwhelmingly dark picture with reckless abandon - and it pays off. If ever there was a film that demanded attention, even from those normally wary of reading at the cinema, this is it.

Head On is a suprisingly beautiful portrait of unconventional love, and it's two leads amaze at every increasingly unbelieveable turn. Birol Unel, who generally plays grizzled thugs, plays... a grizzled thug, but lends his transition into a grizzled thug with a heart incredible believeability and sentiment, as he falls in love with newcomer Sibel Kelkilli's wildly suicidal character. Kelkilli, a former porn star (a fact that didn't come out until Head On was on the festival circuit), handles the film's sexually charged scenes like a pro, unsurprisingly, but it's Unel who surprises most by turning his unattractive character into something pleasantly sexual.

Akin, a DJ before he turned to filmmaking, infuses this film, like all his previous films, with a tantilising and toe-tapping punk-electronica soundtrack, seemlessly fusing narrative action with music unlike any other director of the indie-pop generation. The performances, the music and the surprising beauty of the love story creep up on you, making Head On a must-see for anyone who can stomach a bit of sex and violence for the ultimate movie-going payoff - cinematic AND emotional satisfaction.

One key warning: the scenes of sex and violence (particularly the violence) are VERY graphic. Take this into consideration if you're particularly squeamish.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
'Gegen die Wand' in German, 'Duvara karsi' in Turkish, or 'HEAD-ON' in English is an explosive drama written and directed by Fatih Akin, a movie that may be tough to watch, but a movie that has enormous impact. While other films have successfully addressed the particular problems that the immigrant Turkish community in Germany face, few have come as close to examining all sides of the on-going issues of displacement and the effects of familial dispersal in the face of a new culture.

Cahit (Birol Ünel) is a thirty-something lost soul, drinking and snorting himself into oblivion over the loss of his beloved wife. He lives in a slum, spends all his time in sleazy bars getting beaten up for inappropriate behavior until one night he drunkenly drives into a wall (?suicidal?) and ends up in a hospital where he 'meets' Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), a young woman who has again attempted suicide as an escape from her strict family's prevention of her having a life. Hearing Cahit is Turkish, Sibel nonchalantly suggests they 'marry': Sibel's only way to escape her family would be to find a Turkish husband. Though grossly mismatched, the two agree to an 'open marriage', they satisfy Sibel's family, and move in together. Sibel cooks and cleans Cahit's hovel, and then goes out and sleeps around. This arrangement eventually causes problems for each of them and Sibel moves to Istanbul to escape the horrors of the life she has chosen. Once alone, Cahit is confronted with the reality that Sibel is the only path to salvation for his tragic life and the story proceeds - or rather speed drives - its way to a heartrending finish.

The characters in the film are generally unlikable sorts, especially Cahit, but each actor does so well allowing us to observe the dreary world that faces immigrants in a fractured society that we end up having an amazing amount of compassion for their character creations. Director Akin makes this two-hour plus drama speed by with such solid purpose that it seems a short film. There is considerable nudity and the sexual encounters may be a problem for some viewers, but Akin's cinematographer Rainer Klausmann makes everything work toward the ultimate message of the film. An interesting touch is Akin's choice of weaving a chamber music group of a female vocalist with Turkish instrumentalists as a chorus to comment on the action and keep us mindful that, though the film for the most part is set in Germany, this is a very Turkish story! Grady Harp, March 06
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One of my favorite movies of recent years. Amazingly moving, bleak, sexy, funny, punky. Great acting, wonderful, simple photography, cool editing choices, and terrific music.

An alcoholic, self-destructive Turk living in Germany agrees to marry young, borderline crazy, free spirited Turkish girl looking to get away from her grasping, tradition bound family. This simple plot leads to a relationship of amazing complexity, and a love story of joy, humor, and heartbreak. That's partly because filmmaker Akin approaches familiar situations with such a unique, playful and fresh eye, and partly because, along with his two lead actors he has created two unforgettable characters - rich in contradictions and confusion, like all of us.

Nothing in their obvious personal experience is anything like mine. I've never been an immigrant, an alcoholic, or lost and self-destructive. Yet, with amazing ease I felt let into this world, and found the human connections underneath, the things we all share. Suddenly the differences in the human experience seemed much less important than the similarities. And, to me, this is the real genius Akin has shown in his last few films. By being so specific and real about a world, he, paradoxically makes it universal and accessible.

I urge you to seek it out.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2006
Some people think this movie is about culture and immigrants (German,

Turkish) But that is not the emphasis. Its not about clashes of culture, for one thing the charecters are nutcases-one cannot induce a cultural analysis by looking at two figures.

The emphasis is on how low

one can go; where does one hit the bottom; and how love is intertwined in

such a spiral.

A magnificent tragedy, but it doesn't make you feel

depressed, it makes you take a big deep breath in and damn and

appreciate life at the same time. The actor and actress are

magnificent so was the supporting actors. The director doesn't treat

the audience as dumb nor as people who have to really think hard to get

it. The sequence of events and the transition from scene to scence are magnificent.

The movie swept every possible film award in Europe and is still sweeping

rewards in North America and rest of the world. No wonder the U.S. national movie critics declared it the best foreign movie of the year. This this is the best

movie I've seen. PERIOD (.)
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 4, 2006
I'm sure more than a few US moviegoers were left a bit flummoxed when the 2005 "Top Ten" lists started coming out from "important" reviewers and - lo and behold - there sat a German film about Turks smack-dab in the mix and often in the pole position.

Believe the hype. This fierce, almost indescribable film will blow you away with its intensity and ineffably heartbreaking ending. The beautiful Sibel Kekilli launches a film career like she was shot out of a cannon (well, her non-"adult" film career, if you catch my drift). Birol Ünel puts on a jaw-dropping performance. Director/Screenwriter Fatih Akin is brilliant. Full stop. This movie took the Best Director and Best Film awards at the 2004 European Film Awards.

The German title of this film is "Gegen die Wand" which means "Against the Wall." The English title is almost better. Even director Akin has said so. "Head-On" has connotations at two or three different levels.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I am not Turkish, but I am one of those in-between people like the protagonists (living with two cultures, immigrant child of immigrants), so something rang very true here when I watched Sibel rebel against the constraints of a tradition that was more caging of women than men and more sexually guarded than the culture at large (it was similar in my Cuban upbringing).

Unlike Sibel, I wasn't self-destructive and, frankly, unhinged.

But the reason this story is so intriguing is because both leads, Sibel and Cahit, are people on a path toward death--he drinks to excess and attempts suicide via head-on collision with a wall. She slices up her arms and takes drugs, the biggest drug being one-night stands with men she hooks up with in bars or, well, wherever.

They're both a mess, and it's painful and repulsive and fascinating to see them just make incredibly stupid, desperate decisions.

Cahit and Sibel meet at a mental hospital (both after suicide attempts). She is a scrawny, wild-haired, but strangely mesmerizing woman; he is a spaced-out slob stuck in some dark groove. We see her light dimmed in her family's presence. We see her family suffering over her crazy acting out. And we see and understand why she sees this disheveled and suicidal and barely coherent drunk as her way out. They marry because what else can be done? That's how they see it. He has nothing better to do. She sees this as her only out from a repressive home environment. The director is savvy and sensitive enough not to paint the parents as tyrants squashing Sibel's spirit. We see they do love her, and we see that from their perspective, their way is right, and she is wrapped up in evil and shamefulness. They are not wholly wrong. She is not behaving maturely or thoughtfully or smartly. She really is acting like an immature, selfish, whacked out sex addict.

The film lets us see the awfulness of Cahit and Sibel's situations, but we also see moments when their better natures shine through. As Cahit begins to actually fall in love with this woman who is wife in name only, who sleeps with other men and comes home with the dawn. We see him value the touches she brings--a tidier home, fresh Turkish meals she learned from her mother, just laughing together, dancing together. He begins to reengage with life. Sibel, however, is setting up a flashpoint situation.

And everything will change with an act that is both understandable and criminal.

The movie then takes a new turn, and we find ourselves in Turkey, where we know a stricken Sibel will either turn over a new leaf or meet her demise.

And Cahit will find that his destiny is more and yet less than what he imagined.

There are moments in the film where we cut to a scene of a turkish band (all male) and a female singer performing on the shore of some body of water--the Bosphorus?--with Istanbul visible across the river and the Haggia Sophia quite prominent. It's an interesting device that keeps us locked into a sense of another culture. The here (Germany) and there (Turkey), and that span of separation (the river)...all immigrants understand that metaphor.

The two lead actors are rivetting. I've never seen them before, but the woman who plays Sibel has such intensity in her eyes, and she can look horribly unappealing or amazingly sexy depending on how she brightens or dims. The actor who plays Cahit has this same ability--he can be repulsive or appealing depending on a shift of expression, a change in the eyes or posture. They both vividly portray obsession and depression and living on the edge of destruction or salvation.

It's a difficult film to watch, because deep human pain and stupidity are hard to watch without feeling superior at one moment, ashamed at another, compassionate another, and helpless another. You sympathize with nearly ALL the characters, who are in their way each trapped by desires and expectations and not fitting into some mold--whether it's the brother of Sibel, Sibel, Cahit, or Cahit's "uncle", or Sibel's mother and father...

The message, life is hard, but you can make it harder or easier on yourself. And love, love is powerful, love is resurrecting, love can give you hope and fill you with life again, but love can also be something elusive and short-lived and, always, surprising.

This film is not for a day you want to be cheerful. It's for a day when you're not afraid to see broken humanity and maybe commisserate and pray.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2005
'Head-On' tells the story of Cahit and Sibel and never has a love story started in a more desperate place. They meet at a hospital shortly after he's driven his car into a wall and she's tried to kill herself. It's obvious to both that they have something in common and yet, to begin with, both are so utterly self absorbed, they can only see each other as ways out of their own personal hells. It's Cahit who realizes first that they might mean more to one another than this, but it's the progress of their relationship, filled with equal doses of love and hate and self destruction, that keeps the viewer gripped. 'Head on' is filled with a sense of poignant isolation, both personal and political, exiles who are destined not to fit into either their adopted or native cultures. But it's a rare film that can depict such dry politics in such a moving and human manner. For me, this was the best film of 2004.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2010
I rented this movie from Netflix and watched it with my husband. We were both blown away with the raw emotion of both characters and how great the acting was. A great movie that I would highly recommend to anyone.
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