“HEAD ON”–half lives

“Head On”

Half Lives

Amos Lassen

Cahit, a German Turk in his late thirties and has given up on life after his wife’s death. We cannot say he is living; he just exists miserably losing himself in excessive drink and cocaine. When one evening he crashes into a wall (seemingly on purpose) and is taken to a hospital, he meets a girl, Sibel, also a German Turk, who has attempted suicide. She has had it with her family and it’s very traditional look at life and asks Cahit, quite bluntly, to marry her so that as a married woman she can eschew the pressure from her family. Cahit, at first finds the plan not to his liking but later agrees to it. Sibel lets him know that she wants absolute freedom to have sex with other men and Cahit agrees to this and they live as roommates only and each has his own private life. Suddenly things change and their indifference begins to wane but their love story is not going to be simple tale.

“Head On” won the top award at the Berlin film festival in 2004 and is visually a beautiful movie with gorgeous panoramic shots of Turkey.

Both of our leads are drama queens with Cahit being the more Turkish assimilated of the couple. Sibel feels that by marrying Cahit she capitulates to the conventions of her culture in order to escape from it. Cahit, likewise, must conform to society in order to achieve a sense of purpose. They marry and eventually learn to love one another. Her footloose attitude toward life is exactly what he needs—she s wild in her own way as he is in his. Yet her promiscuity and his violence and lack of respect cause him to attack one of her tricks and jail and scandal ensues. Sibel goes to Istanbul while Cahit sits in jail and she writes to him. When released from prison he goes in search of her.

The movie is really about the half-assimilated in foreign countries with their half alien experiences and even with all of the melodrama in the movie, the characters of Sibel and Cahit are fully developed and realized. The actors are strong and give admirable performances. Birol Unel as Cahit is charismatic, broodingly handsome, sardonic and gloomy. She possesses a life spirit that cannot be quenched and the story is a dichotomy of vibrancy and darkness.

One of the unique aspects of the film is that occasionally there are shots of orchestral interludes n the banks of the Bosporus. These relieve the tension of the film. Otherwise the movie would be a real chore as it is very heavy. The cinematography is also different than anything we have seen before. He shows us life with all of its images.

The primary aim of the film is to show the life of Turkish immigrants in Germany—they are neither Turkish nor German. Because they are something in between, they tend to act outside of what is expected in society. This is what is truly known as an art film. The music, the photography, the script and the actors make this film a shot above the rest.

Why do I classify this as a gay film? This is because the main characters, like gays and lesbians are within society and on the outside of it. We are forced to conform in order to be different. Like Sibel and Cahit, we do not fit except when we conform to what is expected of all. With the themes of love, lust, and passion, we see society through the yes of outsiders who want to belong—but to belong on their terms. As in the ethnic humor in the film, so we try to belong.

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