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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Gegen Die Wand (Head On) (Region 3)
Gegen Die Wand (Head On) (Region 3)
Other // Unrated // February 24, 2005 // Region 3
List Price: $28.99 [Buy now and save at Yesasia]
Review by Svet Atanasov | posted June 14, 2005 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Film:

Cahit Tomruk (Birol Unel) is a 40-something German Turk living a life that seems to be a never-ending vortex of hard drugs and alcohol abuse. At a night club where Cahit picks up empty beer bottles and recycles them for change no one seems to notice the unshaved Turk. After an excessive night of binge-drinking Cahit leaves the club and crashes his car head-on into a brick wall barely escaping his death. Unconscious, with a face covered with shattered glass, Cahit is taken to a nearby hospital where he meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), a German-Turkish woman that has attempted to commit suicide. Sibel is fed-up and enraged by her ultra-traditional Turkish family wanting to shape her future life. She offers Cahit to marry her in order to have her freedom back and enjoy a life devoid of her Muslim family's religious supervision. Cahit impulsively agrees accepting Sibel's proposal with the understanding that both of them will be free to see other people. What starts as an arranged marriage of interest, however, soon evolves into a complex relationship full of unbridled passion.

Without a doubt one of the strongest feature films to come out of Europe in a long time Fatih Akin's Gegen Die Wand (Head On) surely stirred up the hornets' nest in its native Germany. The film is a brutal portrayal of immigrant life in Germany and especially the struggle of German Turks to adjust to a society that often contradicts their Muslim beliefs. Not surprisingly Gegen Die Wand resonated strongly with German film critics and was the first German film to win the coveted Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in eighteen years.

To say that Gegen Die Wand is a controversial film is to merely scratch the surface of an otherwise deep, emotional, and above all utterly realistic drama. I can hardly think of another film from recent years that moved me as much as Gegen Die Wand did. The "realness" effect in this film is absolutely striking. The life of the main characters reminded me how all of us rather often than not choose to intentionally neglect the existence of people among us that do not fit whatever societal norms we might have self-imposed. In fact, to add to the controversial character of the film the director Akin went against all odds to offer the main role of Sibel to the well known in Germany adult film star Sibel Kekilli.

The emotional impact that this film has over its audience has been compared to Gaspar Noe's now notorious Irreversible and I tend to agree that there are indeed some similarities. While Irreversible, however, was a mind-chilling horror story of rape and its consequences Gegen Die Wand is a rather human portrayal of a generation of German Turks trapped between past and present. In a German society that does not accept them as Germans and a traditional Turkish community that looks upon them as half-Turks the likes of Sibil and Cahit are left with nothing but an unfair struggle to prove themselves. Ironically while some choose to fight others, like Sybil and Cahit, merely accept their fate and end up in a human spiral of never-ending collapses.

Shot on locations in Germany and Istanbul, Turkey Gegen Die Wand offers some impressive cinematography. Fatih Akin's camera is smooth, bold, and ultimately painfully convincing. What other directors would have probably avoided showing on the screen Akin has masterfully shot with the eye of a director knowing how to capture human degradation without glorifying it.

While looking at the impressive list of musicians that contributed to the soundtrack of Gegen Die Wand including such notorious acts as Depeche Mode and Sisters of Mercy I couldn't help but draw a parallel between David Gahan, Depeche Mode's lead singer, and Sibel's character both attempting to put closure to their misfortune by committing a suicide attempt. I felt deeply moved and somewhat ashamed by the fact that in this age of supposed tolerance we are still struggling to recognize what we don't agree with.

There are some painful similarities between the Turkish gasterbeiters (a nickname for Turkish unskilled workers) in Germany and the thousands of undocumented Hispanics in America. They both seem driven to the outskirts of the societies they live in and their stories are often filled with bitter disappointments. In Gegen Die Wand Fatih Akin has not only captured the essence of immigrant life but created a realistic portrait of human bitterness that will surely have an impact on you.

How Does the DVD Look?

Gegen Die Wand is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is a Korean version of the film which naturally offers optional Korean subtitles, and luckily for English speakers, English subtitles as well. The print is generally good looking though occasionally there are tiny spots of compression artifacts and some minor instances of film dirt. The disc is NTSC encoded Region 3. Having seen the German R2 disc, which unfortunately does not offer English subtitles, I could say that the Korean version is a fairly good replica of the German disc though substantially lacking in contrast and detail. Regardless, the provided anamorphic transfer for the Korean version should keep you satisfied until a better English-friendly version surfaces on the market.

How Does the DVD Sound? The Korean distributor has provided a rather well-mixed German 5.1 soundtrack that presents the film adequately. Gegen Die Wand could have greatly benefited from the inclusion of a strong DTS track though such has not been provided.

Extras: Unfortunately for the English speakers all extras present on the disc are not subtitled in English. They do however offer optional Korean subtitles if they could be of any use to you. All extras seem to be replicated from the existing German edition:

Interview with director Fatih Akin-

The Making of Gegen Die Wand-

Cast and Director's Bios-

Deleted Scenes with director's commentary-

Trailer-

Teaser-

The Korean version and film censorship: I have had some extensive discussions with a European colleague of mine claiming that a few seconds of graphic wrist-cutting have been omitted by the Korean distributor. As mentioned above I have seen the German R2 version and at the time I did not pay close attention to the length of this specific scene. With this said, for those of you willing to wait until August 28 the UK distributor Soda Pictures will be releasing, I assume, the German cut of the film.

Final Thoughts: Gegen Die Wand was my top pick during 2004. Winner of nearly every major film award in Europe including Best European Film Award (at the European Film Awards); the German Camera Award; Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; Best European Film at the Spanish Goya Awards; the Guild Award granted by the Guild of German Art House Cinemas; etc. This is an enormously powerful film reminiscent of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Alle Türken heißen Ali (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul). A triumphant return for German filmmakers at the grand stage of European cinema…where they rightfully belong. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Addition: After reviewing all three English friendly versions currently on the market the R2-UK disc clearly appears to be the winner. For more info read the review for the R2-Soda Pictures release.

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