Head-On (film)

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Theatrical film poster
Directed by Fatih Akın
Produced by Stefan Schubert
Ralph Schwingel
Andreas Schreitmüller
Mehmet Kurtuluş
Fatih Akın
Written by Fatih Akın
Starring Birol Ünel
Sibel Kekilli
Catrin Striebeck
Meltem Cumbul
Music by Alexander Hacke
Maceo Parker
Cinematography Rainer Klausmann
Edited by Andrew Bird
Distributed by Timebandits Films (Germany)
R Film (Turkey)
Strand Releasing (US)
Release dates
  • 12 February 2004 (2004-02-12) (Berlin)
  • 11 March 2004 (2004-03-11) (Germany)
  • 19 March 2004 (2004-03-19) (Turkey)
Running time
121 minutes
Country Germany
Language German
Box office $11,030,861[1]

Head-On (German: Gegen die Wand, literally Against the Wall; Turkish: Duvara Karşı) is a 2004 German-Turkish drama film written and directed by Fatih Akın.


Cahit Tomruk is a Turkish German in his 40s. He has given up on life after the death of his wife and seeks solace in cocaine and alcohol. One night, he intentionally drives his car head-on into a wall and barely survives. At the psychiatric clinic he is taken to, Sibel Güner, another Turkish German who has tried to commit suicide, approaches him. She asks Cahit to carry out a formal marriage with her so that she can break out of the strict rules of her conservative family. Cahit is initially turned off by the idea, but then he agrees to take part in the plan.

After Sibel tells him that she prefers an independent sex life, they live as roommates with separate private lives. They eventually fall in love, but things take a turn for the worse when Cahit kills one of Sibel's former lovers out of anger and is sent to prison. While Cahit is in prison, Sibel flees her family and goes to Istanbul to stay with her cousin Selma (Meltem Cumbul)—a divorced woman who manages a hotel. Sibel accepts a job as a maid in Selma's hotel, but finds her new life to be as restrictive as prison. She leaves Selma's apartment to live with a bartender who provides drugs and alcohol. Eventually, he rapes her during her drunk sleep and throws her out. Roaming the streets that night, she baits three men into beating her up. One of them stabs her and they leave her for dead.

Several years later, Cahit travels to Istanbul upon his release from prison, hoping to find Sibel. Initially, Selma refuses to tell Cahit where Sibel is, but later informs him that Sibel is in a long-term relationship and now has a daughter. Cahit waits in a hotel for Sibel's call. It eventually comes, and they meet and make love. He asks her to run away with him and she agrees, but when she goes home to pack, she hears her husband return and squeals of delight from her daughter. She never shows up. The film ends with Cahit on a bus, presumably traveling to Mersin, the city where he was born.



Head-On has received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "certified fresh" rating of 90%, based on 83 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A raw, provocative drama about star-crossed love and the lives of immigrants caught between the traditional and modern."[2] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 78 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]

The film has been cited as a favorite by filmmaker John Waters, who presented it as his annual selection for the 2006 Maryland Film Festival.



External links

Preceded by
Good Bye Lenin!
European Film Award for Best European Film
Succeeded by
Hidden (Caché)
Preceded by
Good Bye Lenin!
Goya Award for Best European Film
Succeeded by
Match Point