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With: Sibel Kekilli, Birol Ünel
Written by: Fatih Akin
Directed by: Fatih Akin
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: German and Turkish with English subtitles
Running Time: 118
Date: 02/12/2004
IMDB

Head-On (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Young Turks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In Fatih Akin's earlier film In July, the German-born director took an old-fashioned road movie romance (a variation on It Happened One Night) and gave it a craggy, sun-baked sweetness. From the first 40 minutes of his new film, Head-On, it looks like he's going to do the same -- until he blindsides you with something new. It's a strange effect; he gets us to relax and look forward to something comfortable and routine, but then snatches it away and delivers something darker. Probably the first reaction is to resist, but that would be amistake. Head-On is one powerful film.

Meeting at a psychiatric clinic after they've both attempted suicide, a beautiful young woman, Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) proposes marriage to a shaggy, sad-faced, older man, Cahit (Birol Ünel). They're both of Turkish descent, and Sibel figures that she can use this man, who picks up empty bottles for a living, to get away from her overbearing, traditional family. Of course, the two will fall in love for real. But when Cahit defends his wife's honor and attacks one of her former lovers, he goes to jail. Sibel wanders the city in a daze, throwing herself vacantly into unwholesome and dangerous situations.

Akin's focus is always on the two characters, drawing out fully-rounded emotional centers for both. The storytelling flows naturally from this strong core. It helps that both actors burst with presence; Ünel appeared previously in In July, but Kekilli makes her debut here with astonishing force. Head-On also makes great use of nearly forgotten 1980s goth-punk music (the Sisters of Mercy, etc.) and it has the attitude to match.

Strand's excellent DVD release comes with a very good 30-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that was actually filmed on location; it's not just the usual clips-and-talking-heads show. Other extras include the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, outtakes and trailers for other Strand titles (Who Killed Bambi?, The Other Side of the Street, Primo Amore and Open My Heart).

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