Thursday, 15 July 2021

Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 72: Tue Jul 27

Head-On (Akin, 2004): BFI Southbank, NFT1. 8.40pm


This film is part of the Tape Collective 'But Where Are They Really From' season.

Time Out review:
It’s easy to think we’ve seen all this before: the Turkish community in Hamburg, a clash of cultures, stern Islamic parents and rebellious youngsters… The same old deal. However, dismiss this movie at your peril since such cultural displacement isn’t its be-all and end-all, merely the starting point for a narcotically vivid love story shaped by wilful volatility as much as the pain of exile.

Leather-clad late-thirtysomething loner Cahit (Birol Ünel, who looks like someone left a Turkish Iggy Pop in a skip) is stuck in a nowhere job at a Hamburg rock club, so it’s hardly a surprise he ‘accidentally’ drives his car straight into a brick wall. Recovering in a psychiatric hospital brings another fateful collision with the beautiful but obviously troubled Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), who bears the scars of conflict with her conservative family. She’ll do anything so she can take drugs and fuck who she wants, and marrying fellow Turk Cahit is one way out. If he’ll agree to tie the knot for show, the deal is that she’ll deliver wifely domesticity without consummating the union.

It sounds terribly rational, but she’s a little bit mental, he’s a little bit rock ’n’ roll, and pretty soon there are tears, blood and rage before bedtime, romantic redemption by no means prevailing against bitter experiences of self-destructive uncertainty. Cannily, the film sets its authentic scuzzball ‘cool’ in ironic context by inter-cutting traditional Turkish ballads filmed before a postcard Bosphorous, suggesting that these two have travelled so far their only safe haven may be with each other. Both the lead actors absolutely live these roles, as Akin’s punchy yet astute direction whirls us in their substance-fuelled passions while somehow allowing us the distance to ponder the explosive interaction of socio-cultural circumstances and personal fallibilities. It’ll put a lump in your throat and a knot in your stomach. This is max-strength film-making you can’t afford to miss.
Trevor Johnston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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