Sunday, October 09, 2005


Germany/Turkey, 2004, directed by Fatih Akin (original title: Gegen die Wand)

A couple of years ago, Fatih Akin directed a cute little romantic comedy by the name of Im Juli, a creditable variation on the familiar theme of boy meets girl, with a multi-ethnic twist and two appealing lead performances. To say that Gegen die Wand is a little different is rather like saying that milk and kerosene are different: Akin's new film is a ferocious exploration of two messed-up souls, and their place as immigrants/outsiders in today's Germany. The film opens, more or less, in a psychiatric hospital, as Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), a troubled young woman, of Turkish origin, tries to convince Cahit (Birol Ünel), a somewhat older Germanized Turkish man, to marry her - the only way she can see to escape the stifling confines of her family. She's not proposing a conventional arrangement, however, since the marriage is to remain a convenient fiction, for her parents' eyes only. While it's no surprise that events don't unfold as smoothly as she imagines, given the complex histories involved, the performances of Ünel and Kekilli are so thoroughly involving that they render the subsequent events both credible and moving. When a tragic accident sends the story in an entirely unexpected direction the shift is wrenching, for despite, or because of, their flaws, the couple is clearly struggling in the right direction, dealing with grief, loss, and displacement as best they can. The latter third of the action shifts to Istanbul: it's striking that both of Akin's films end up here, as if to suggest that only in the mother country can Turks truly confront their problems. It doesn't paint a rosy picture of multi-cultural Germany that even a successful Turkish-German director feels that true happiness is to be found back on the Bosphorus.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States