Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gegen Die Wand (aka Head-On)

I haven't been wholly impressed with my very limited exposure to Turkish films in the past. To be fair, though, this exposure was pretty much limited to one film: Uzak. Uzak was slow. And dull. And seemingly interminably long. And yet, despite not enjoying it and wishing it would hurry up and end, it has somehow stayed with me. It had something. Ultimately it was never supposed to be an action movie; it's a character piece focusing on the shitty lives of the protagonists. But no fun. In fact, I've also seen another Italo-Turk movie, Hamam: pretty good, that one. Actually, there are another couple of good ones that come to mind now, but I don't wanna bang on about it... I take it back: clearly I've been quite impressed with Turkish films overall!

Even so, it was with bated breath that I approached the Turkish-German co-production Head-On, another of Wife's choices, and the opening couple of minutes filled me with dread. (At this point, I must say that whenever possible I approach movies knowing as little about them as possible.) A Turkish group with a female singer standing on the edge of a river singing some dodgy Turkish song. Don't get me wrong: I'm not getting all racialist and shit. But that terrible music was the soundtrack to my ten years of living in Harringay, north London, and it's not something I care to listen to again.

Fortunately, the song was just a scene-setter, but they crop up three or four times in total, like book-ends, or the chorus in Greek tragedies. Still, once you know they're only short, they are put-up-with-able.

The story is set within the Turkish community and, in brief, tells of a young Turkish girl living in Germany who has tried to kill herself. While in hospital she meets an older (30s) man of Turkish descent (but who barely speaks Turkish) who has also, seemingly, tried to kill himself. She asks him to marry her, so that she can be free of her domineering, traditional parents: a marriage of convenience.

What follows is a tumultuous tale of self-harm, love, jealousy, violence, and murder. It is one of the best films I've seen this year, and I think it will stay with me a long time. It is hard-hitting and fantastically acted by all concerned (insofar as I can tell, not understanding either German or Turkish, the two languages used almost throughout). In many ways, it reminded me of a cross between the French films Irreversible and Dans ma peau (In My Skin); certainly this would make for a really depressing triple-bill on a Sunday afternoon.

If you have already seen and liked any of these three films, try the others. If you've seen none, start with Head-On: it's the least repelling of the three. If you like it, you can then move on to the hard stuff, starting with Dans ma peau and ending with the supremely nightmarish, depressing, but incredible Irreversible. Great movies all three.

As an aside, the lead actress in Head-On was formerly a porn star. I mention this only because you would never have guessed it from the performance she gives. It is as far removed from the supposed "acting" of certain other former porn stars as you can get.

Score: 71 out of 100