With the German film Head-On (2004), writer/director Fatih Akin has fashioned a film that is powerful, intense, gloomy, romantic and drowning in the kind of despair that you only get to witness in movies from another country. Head-On is just so unrelenting in its bleak outlook on life that there is no way in the world it would have been made by Hollywood.
Head-On is a great movie and all, but I wonder sometimes why I subject myself to such heavy, unrelenting stories when I could just be watching The Guardian like all the other multiplex loving drones. The answer: deep down (well not that deep as this is a surface love) I love film and the experience of cinema and I don’t care if it’s fun and laughs or tears and anguish that is on display. If a movie is good—I want to see it.
Sometimes film is a raw, painful and harsh experience that doesn’t uplift you in the end. Real life doesn’t always have happy endings. Films like Head-On make me realize just how sugarcoated the entire Hollywood mentality is. I don't need happy endings or sugary romances all the time, I do need good movies.
Head-On is a romance as two people come together in Hamburg and go on a swirling, out of control relationship that is doomed from the moment the pair meet in a mental hospital after both attempt to kill themselves. You’d think that a couple meeting after committing suicide would have nothing left but good times ahead of them, right? Yeah, sure.
Sibel is a beautiful young Turkish woman who is so desperate to get out of her stifling, conservative family she begs Cahit to marry her despite the fact he’s twice her age and basically a step above bumland. Cahit is Turkish and that will please her family. Sibel wants to go out and have sex with lots of guys, do drugs and live it up while pretending to be married. Cahit is drunkenly buried in the grief of his wife dying. It’s a match made in heaven afterall as Sabil convinces Cahit of marriage after she sticks a shard of broken glass into her veins. Didn’t I say this was a romance?
Head-On does not flinch. Not once. It swims in so much despair from beginning to end that I felt a wave of gloom weighing me down when it ended. There are moments when you feel hope in your heart for these two lost people but Akin doesn’t want to make that kind of film. Head-On will stick to you for days after you have seen it—can a film like The Guardian say the same?
Head-On is one of the saddest, most depressing films I’ve seen all year, but it’s also one of the best, as I admire a film that is brave enough to look despair in the face and not look away.