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Gegen die Wand

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Yesterday was a strange day. When I woke up it was gray and rainy outside and I had the definite urge not to see anybody. So did some reading at home – a fortunate possibility when your occupation revolves mostly around papers which you happen to have in your bag. In the evening I finally installed our external antenna for the wireless network, which involved drilling some more holes. It turned out that the – hellishly expensive – cable must have some kind of problem as the connection will only work when the cable is in certain positions.

At night, I went to the cinema on my own. Unlike going to a pub on your own, going to the cinema on your own doesn't suck (unless you're going to the pub before or after, that is). While you're watching the film it is fairly irrelevant whether you are sitting there with you friends or not. I watched Gegen die Wand by Fatih Akin, the hyped German film du jour. [The film is now available in English as well. The English version is called 'Head On' and it's R/18 rated in the US/UK for some reason, while being 12 rated in Germany.]

Lately there seems to be about one German film a year that receives a sizeable amount of hype. And this might be the film for 2004. It won some prizes and started to be screened while I was in California – meaning that right now the only opportunity to get to see it is Fridays at 11. I.e. 'being hyped' doesn't exactly mean the film gets the same coverage as your average B-class Hollywood crap.

The film is about a girl from a Turkish family who desperately wants to flee from the control of her conservative parents' home. After having tried to kill herself, she decides to get married instead. Which she does. She meets the guy – who is also from a Turkish background, as her parents wouldn't accept anything else – at the hospital where they both are recovering from suicide attempts. He is much older and doesn't like the idea of getting married, but in the end agrees as well.

Eventually they even fall in love – and things start being tragic: He – accidentally – kills a guy who insulted his wife whom he just started caring about. Her family abandons her to save their 'honour' while he goes to jail. She goes to Istanbul, where she is quickly disappointed by the successful friend she has there. Just like things go in films.

Beside the story, the issue of integration is central in the film. Just dig the irony – the protagonists are from a Turkish background but can't relate to it. They'd answer the question of their origin with 'Hamburg' rather than 'Turkey'. They'll rather speak German than Turkish. Not only to make a statement but also because they're more comfortable with it. Yet they decide to meet the expectations of the very culture they want to abandon in order to get some freedom from it.

Recently there have been big debates about whether muslim teachers may wear a veil in class: picture a big sale a hypocrisies-R-us with opinions ranging from the freedom of expression to suppression of women. And once that topic rolls, you are quickly reminded that some Turkish families won't let their daughters participate in school sports &c. On the other hand, Turkey itself is supposed to be very secular these days – with questions about wearing a veil in public office not even arising.

The debate and opinions that people in Germany may or may not have about this aside; also conveniently ignoring my lack of first hand knowledge of Turkey and just assuming that what I have heard, and seen in the film, is about true: It's quite ironic – today's Turkey seems more modern than some of the Turkish immigrants in Germany. Perhaps Turkey modernised a lot during the past forty years and those people got stuck with the traditions of the time when they left? Even then I would have suspected that the people who actually go to work and live abroad are the more modern and open minded ones anyway. – On the other hand, of course, being abroad seems to naturally make you more 'nationalistic', or at least more font of your home country than it deserves.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

April 24, 2004, 9:24

Tagged as fatih akin, film, lang:de.

Comments

Comment by Yesim: User icon

Hi there,

interesting to find somebody non german or non turkish talk about this film, which I saw in Germany during my annual”vacation” (seeing family and friends, since I live in the States for 4 years now and by the way I’m turkish with german citizenship)). The movie blew me away, not just because of the story, this kind of stories are quite familiar to me. But it was the way in which it was told, the roughness, desperation and tederness in certain parts. Not to mention the excellent actors, wich themselfs had to face a lot of critism(specially sibel kekikli as a turkish woman showing a lot under the veil).

I really would like to have this movie on dvd or any other available media format. I want my husband to see it(he’s american, which means it would be great to find a version with english subtitles and of course compatible with us dvd player standards.) Do you have any idea if there is a way to purchase it somewhere outhere in the wild web universe. Or is the only way for him to see some quality turkish film, to learn turkish or german?Poor guy he is sooo not talented in languages……..

I really would appreciate your feedback Thanks Yesim

January 24, 2005, 0:21

Comment by ssp: User icon

Yesim,

I just had a look around and it appears that there’s no U.S. version of the DVD available yet. It even looks like it’s only going to be for sale in France starting this week. And seeing that it was screened in France about half a year before it came to the U.S., my guess would be that you may have to wait another six months or so. Apparently the international version of the film is called ‘Head On’

It looks like there should at least be a subtitled version (which I guess should’ve been there right away as it’s really not that much work) in English, if not a fully dubbed one. But it will take some more time.

January 24, 2005, 1:18

Comment by Selda: User icon

Hi guys,

I’m both a Turkish and English citizen. I’ve lived in London nearly all my life, and I want to say something in response to the initial posted comment. In my opinion, the film highlighted the truth very well. Growing up in a different country to the one that you’re born in is a very difficult thing to adapt to. You are torn between two cultures, and let’s face it a lot of youths do breakdown and do extreme things to cry out for help; Sibel is a great example.

I thought the film was a masterpiece and deserved every award it got. Fatih Akin, who directed the film did a fabulous job. It is so effective. The cinematography is just stunning. As for the lead characters; Sibel Kekilli and Birol Unel, all I can say is that they were amazing. Sibel got a lot of criticism for this film, and the Turkish audience have not accepted her with open arms since she has done porn films in the past; but I personally find this ridiculous. She is a brilliant actress and that is all that matter when you are reviewing a film.

If anyone hasn’t already seen the film, they must go and see it. You will be amazed at how good Fatih Akin is.

Oh, and Yesim, type Gegen Die Wand in google, and it gives you some links and information about purchasing the film.

February 23, 2005, 21:27

Comment by Sati: User icon

Hi everyone,

Im from Holland, and also a Turkish and Dutch citizen. i can only say: the movie was a masterpiece….. my brother has a girlfriend and she lives here for one and a half year now, and her opinion was that it was exxaggerated, and me and my broher started the discussion with her..I think its excatly how it is to grow up as a foreigner..-excuse me for my bad english- . Im waiting for anther movie of fatih… or also that kind of movie… someone who can give me advise?

March 1, 2005, 2:01

Comment by Selda: User icon

Hi, There is no doubt that the film was a work of art. As I have already stated, this film is in my opinion one of the best films ever made. I would say it beats any Hollywood movie hands down.

Sati, you make the point that your brothers girlfriend thought it was exaggerated. I wonder what she means by this. If she is referring to the scenes that deal with drugs, suicide and sex, well I can tell you that Fatih Akin intentionally ‘exaggerated’ these issue in order to make an impact on the audience.

If she is referring to the plot or the acting, I do not understand how she came up with such a conclusion. The acting is so great in this film, in fact at times I forgot that I was watching a film. The characters are very ‘real’ indeed.

As for the plot, there is nothing exaggerated about it at all. I know for a fact that there are many people like Sibel and Cahit in the real world.

I’m a massive fan of Fatih Akin, I think he does his job very well. Sati, he is currently working on a few projects so keep your eyes peeled.

March 5, 2005, 23:07

Comment by Tulay: User icon

Hello there, I saw the film last night and had to go for a long walk to clear my head. I did think the film was very good but not excellent-some of the dialogues, especially the Turkish ones just did not sound natural and I felt they were improvised but this just did not work. Anyway, it is a minor point for a brave film. Both main actors were excellent and I can imagine the reaction Sibel got in Turkey. Also, interestingly the English translation omitted references to religion in some scenes (the scene on the bus, the driver is angry because they are Allahsiz (not believers basically) That type of oppression, especially on women is very true. I also felt that the characters felt a bit lost in both cultures (this may reflect my own feeling-my Turkish is getting poor and I obviously have an English accent! My daughter’s “mother’s tongue” is English). It was interesting that both ended up in Turkey- the male character going to visit where he was born.

Selda, I also live in London and if you fancy going to see some Turkish films together, contact me on tulmark2003@yahoo.co.uk Best wishes to all, Tulay

March 16, 2005, 14:46

Comment by Selda: User icon

Hi,

I just wanted to let everyone that enjoyed Fatih Akins ‘Gegen Die Wand’ to know that there is a film with a very similar storyline which I am sure you will all enjoy. It is called ‘Solino’, and is coming to cinemas soon..so I just thought I would let you know.

March 16, 2005, 14:49

Comment by Selda: User icon

Hi Tulay,

Yes I agree with what you say about some of the dialogue not sounding natural. This is true; but on the whole the film is very ‘real’ in my opinion.

The English translation missed out a whole lot, I noticed that too.

About being lost in both cultures…indeed, you are right. Sibel and Cahit are confused about their identities because they cannot define themselves as either German or Turkish. They do not fully fit in in either world.

Tulay it would be great to see Turkish films together. I sent you an e-mail.

Take Care.

March 23, 2005, 18:42

Comment by JJ: User icon

I just saw the film Gegen Die Wand and thought it was wonderful. It also was very current because I just heard a report on the news this morning about the Turkish people living in Germany who are treating their young women very harshly and even killing them. I think the original title “Against the Wall” is much better than the translation “Head On”. I think we all got the symbolism when he crashed into the wall. The movie was really not so much about the crash but about the wall. The Turkish music added an incredible amount to the film for me. It was like the Greek chorus in tragedies that reflects the themes, action and mood of the play and players.

March 29, 2005, 18:16

Comment by Charlotte: User icon

I also thought this movie was amazing. Having lived in Germany for nine years (I’m English), and being of course aware of the large Turkish community but not having any real connection with it because I had no friends of Turkish origin, it was fascinating to be taken inside it in this way. For someone ‘outside’, a less good film could have been a confirmation of many half-grasped cliché ideas about Turkish/Muslim families (honour, chastity, role of men & women etc), which would potentially have been alienating. But because it was brilliantly told through the intense story of these two characters, you simply related to them as individuals and were drawn into their experiences. Sibel Kekilli and Birol Ünel were absolutely extraordinary and deserved every award. I hope Sibel manages to find another role to match her talents and shake off the “ex porn star” label - whatever she may have done before, she’s unquestionably an excellent actress.

Is “Solino” also by Fateh Akin? I loved that too. So many German films are still, sadly, either not very good, not very gripping, or not very funny (there’s tendency to produce a lot of comedies to cater to the German sense of humour…I shall refrain from the obvious comment…) I guess that’s why you only get one a year in the States! Another film I loved - though rather different in style - was “Beyond Silence” (Jenseits der Stille) by Caroline Link. (She also made the Oscar-winning “Nowhere in Africa”.) Actually I suppose both of those also deal with alienation and people trying to work out where they belong…

Charlotte

March 31, 2005, 3:26

Comment by Selda: User icon

Hi,

No ‘Solino’ is not by Fatih Akin, but it gets compared to ‘Gegen Die Wand’ a lot. They are both beautifully made.

April 4, 2005, 23:25

Comment by Erika: User icon

The whole discussion about dual nationality is very interesting indeed. I’ve had this experience myself, since I’m half German and half Brazilian. For most part of my life, I could only see the German colony in Rio de Janeiro, and I thought they were very conservative and longing for a Germany that no longer exists. I could even compare my dad with my uncle, who came back to Germany. Two different minds. But then I lived in Germany for a time, in Tübingen, Berlin (now I’m in London), and I realised that Brazilian people abroad aren’t that different. It’s impressive how often they maybe complaining about so many different things and don’t do anything to change it. Perhaps we may affirm there’s a common phenomenon of these new colonies around the world. A mix of longing their culture with the challenge of getting integrated in the new place they’ve choosen for some reason. And it’s definitely not difficult not to feel integrated in some countries.

The most important thing is how different cultures are dealing with this big issue, specially in a world where people are moving here and there so much easier. Unfortunately, a lot of reasons count to the sucess of the integrations. Brazil is used to different people, since it was once a colony and received all kind of people: from the obvious Portugueses to African, Italian, German, Polish, Japanese, so on. It’s a mixed place and from the blondest to the blackest, everyone could be Brazilian. And although there’re muslims in Brazil, I’ve never seen anyone using a veil. There’re Jewish, but one can’t recognize them just by looking. Hence I consider Brazil a country where people may have the chance of integration regarding their cultural origins.

In Germany, my other half, it’s very difficult though. People look at me on the streets as a foreigner, even being not a complete one. I’ll never be a German to German people. And I think that’s strange. The other thing, what’s the problem of having people coming from abroad? It can only get better, in my opinion.

The characters of “Gegen die Wand” are German, not Turkish. Or at least, both. Of course it’s clear along the film they’re in between, but that’s the reality of loads of people nowadays. Berlin and London are a very good place do find thousands of mixed people, doesn’t mind how unlikely to happen it may be, you may find here/there.

I know this is a very delicate subject in Europe. Some people get me wrong if I give my opinion. I’m not saying this someone’s personal opinion or prejudice. However, I’m sure there’s still so much to talk about it. And it should be discussed. The more often, the better. But, how open are people to get deep on this theme?

Sorry if I wrote too much. No intentions of being rude anyhow. Just sharing a bit of my own experience and thoughts.

PS: SOLINO is directed by Fatih Akin. If anyone wants to check this out: http://www.solino-derfilm.de/

May 6, 2005, 12:42

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for recommending Solino. I really liked the film.

June 23, 2005, 17:25

Comment by Thom SunstrOke: User icon

i would just like to say: i am a North American (U.S.A.; specifically, California - San Francisco), who has a Turkish wife and 1/2 “American”, 1/2 Turk baby of 8 1 1/2 months. i NEED to see this movie, and also to view it with my betrothed! i have been teased into submission! the reviews are the “kicker”! i am/was intreiged(?) by the soundtrack first, then a web-search convinced me of my unEarthly desire to view this High Art! letter you all know….?!?….not likely, yet…..who knows these things which are not yet told? if i can find the dollars i will see with me own eyes!

October 22, 2005, 8:41

Comment by Rodrigo: User icon

Increible, es una pelicula buenisimo. La acavo de ver, son las 1:16 A.M. . A pesar de que es una estupides escribir en mi idioma casi barbaro, lo hago de todos modos para que sepan que esta peligula es muy buena. Sin mas, saludos a todos..

Santiago de Chile

December 6, 2005, 5:48

Comment by Ben: User icon

Well, I can only agree with the praise being given here. As far as I am aware, this is the first of Fahit Akin’s film’s that I’ve had the pleasure to see, and I’ve gotta say, I’m a real fan.

The performance by the two lead roles was stellar, and little else. I’m not in much of a positi0on to provide a critical analysis of the film, as I saw it quite a few months ago, but I do remember enjoying it intensely, and I’ll be sure to see ‘solino’

One thing I can add is a reccomendation for Herzog’s excellent film, Stroszek. It runs on a similar theme in places, and is truly a great film.

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Ben

January 2, 2006, 16:58

Comment by Keshia: User icon

Hello All,

I would like to thank you all for opening my eyes to different perspectives of this film (Gegen Die Wand). I am a Black American woman in Houston, Texas and I saw this movie on the sundance channel. I was absolutely drawn in from the very beginning. I thought the movie was very well done, but not knowing enough about either culture I decided to do a search to find out more and thats how I came upon this site. All of the comments about the film allowed me to look at it from a different set of eyes and new meanings began to surface that I hadn’t considered before.
Gegen Die Wand is a great film that I think anyone would benefit seeing. It’s a great love story that has strong messages about personal faith and virtue. For me, one of the best points made was in the scene between the cousin and Cahit when he asked if she was strong enough to come between him and Sibel and her counter was if he thought he was strong enough to ruin her life. I thought this was such a telling question that really helps define the strength of love and ones own character. I really wish I could understand the languages because I know so much is lost in translation…Overall, GREAT film.

Keshia, Houston, Texas USA

May 26, 2007, 8:37

Comment by ssp: User icon

The Film is available for viewing (in German and possibly with Turkish subtitles) on the NDR website.

June 6, 2007, 2:02

Comment by Kate: User icon

Solino is by Fatih Akin (film about German Italians).

March 19, 2010, 5:11

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