Head-On, Fatih Akin (2004)

She’s a twenty-year-old bubbly party girl second-generation Turkish immigrant living in Hamburg. He’s a forty-year-old Charles Bukowski/Nick Cave amalgam (except talentless) second-generation Turkish immigrant living in Hamburg. Girl meets boy at a psychiatric hospital. They’ve both been committed because they’ve both attempted suicide: she because there’s no way for her to get out from under her repressive traditional Turkish parents, he because he’s grieving for a long-lost love and because he’s a hopeless, broke, junkie, alcoholic barhop. She, clever girl, has an idea. If he’ll marry her, her family will stop checking up on her all the time, and she can go out and party with impunity. In return, she’ll cook and clean and pay the rent. There’s the predictable resistance, resignation, tense meeting with the family, awkward yet charming wedding, and Odd-Couple-esque conflicts when they take up residence together. Also predictable, of course: they fall in love. After that, things get more complicated, less predictable, and often quite moving.

The movie’s a little too in love with its own sturm und drang, but it’s undeniably smart, and sheds a lot of light on the plight of deracinated Turks in Germany, especially that of women, who endure double discrimination. The movie’s smartest move of all, though, is that it’s not a one-dimensional diatribe convinced that youth always knows better than age, change is always better than tradition. In fact, both main characters wind up wanting, to some extent, in spite of themselves, to return “home” to traditions about which they have violently conflicted feelings.

In the Hollywood remake, we’ll never get to see that part. This movie’s got about five acts; the remake will have just three.

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