A Pocket Full of Clemsonite

April 25, 2009

The Misfits Love Stories in Film (p1): Fatih Akin’s “Gegen Die Wand” / “Head-On”

This film is not only for the Depeche Mode fans. Nor is it only for punk rock fans, although Cahit, the main male character, is a big fan. I couldn’t exactly tell if this film has a specific target, although it comes from a very specific intercultural “metissage”. Namely, the director Fatih Akin is a member of the Turkish German minority he is trying to describe in this film (it’s an interesting phenomenon, there are millions of them, brought in as guest workers after WWII, and lately they are affecting even the mainstream German culture). We are introduced into the interference fringes between the traditional Turkish civilization and the offers and temptations of the host culture, the German one, a classic example of Western civilization. Maybe the best way to put this is in such a film, when something goes on, and from time to time, when the film becomes too tense, we chill out watching traditional Turkish singers on a boat on the Bosphorus strait.
Feelings and emotions of people will be charged with this ambiguous cultural load. As an example, Cahit, still grieving the loss of his wife, runs head-on with his car into a building. Saved from death, at the clinic he meets Sibel, who wants to launch herself head-on in the Western world. Her way of trying to convince her parents to let her do what she wants is to cut her wrists from time to time. Because it’s not working too well, she offers a deal to Cahit: to marry together. She’ll cook and clean for him and still will have her life of her own.
Then we’re stepping into the realm of things that are never what they look like. Cahit is not the prosperous businessman he pretends to be, the marriage isn’t what it is supposed to be, and we realize that in a painful shot of Sibel still wearing her wedding gown in the bar being picked up by a guy and leaving with him to his apartment. The only real thing is the ethnic food made by Sibel (and it really looks tasty, only if it wouldn’t go down the drain), very little else to keep these people hooked in the not so tight net of reality.
But it grows. So we understand how, in spite of both spouses’ trysts with other people (Cahit also has a hairstylist girlfriend), they are getting closer. To the extent of a tragic event. In the eve of the marriage being actually consummated (at least), they get to a bar where a guy, knowing Sibel’s ways, wants to pick her up; Cahit defends her and hits him with a heavy object, causing his death.
Now everything becomes real, but grim and extremely personal. Cahit will spend the next years in prison for murder. Sibel, in love, promises to wait for him. And in the meantime she goes to explore her Turkish heritage. Now the past gets back to her, and she falls rather deep. In a way, she is trying to level with Cahit, but it might also be more complex than that.
Not only on the societal level, but also in reality, they do meet. Some years later. Well, let’s just say that what was deemed to happen happens, but let’s also remember that we are in a film which doesn’t cater to Hollywood happy-end addicts. Each will have their own ways, and what they tried to escape, the Turkish culture, will actually become their environment of choice.
One can even wonder; is this some sort of protective cloth, as to not be tempted to make such sudden leaps into the unknown? Are these people “immunized” by now? Or are they just trying to avoid being hurt, after “coming of age”?
I definitely don’t have a definitive answer, but listen to the Oriental music, it’s beautiful. Perhaps that music tries to tell us something.
And maybe you will fall in love with this music and look for Fatih Akin’s great documentary about the Istanbul music, made right after this film.

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