Review: Gegen Die Wand (Head-On, 2004)

Sometimes love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Written By: Faith Akin
Directed By: Faith Akin

Relationships have been tricky for years, and they will always be tricky. They are one of those time memorial type of issues that people will always find themselves confronted with. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, people tend to connect with others regardless of whether or not said relationship is healthy. People define themselves by their relationships, they gain strength from their relationships, and they are destroyed because of their relationships. Gegen Die Wand is about what happens when two individuals who do not have their own identity attempt to defines themselves through another person.

Sibel and Cahit are not healthy individuals, this is not something the film tries to hide. Faith Akin is up front about the problems his two leads deal with on a daily basis. Life to them is a struggle, such a struggle that they have never been able to find out where they fit in the fabric of life. The fact that they have no identities of their own is what makes their relationship yet another problem to deal with. They attempt to define who they are through each other, but how is Sibel supposed to know who she is when Cahit does not know who he is, and vice versa?

Despite all of their faults Sibel and Cahit fall in love, but that ends up being the weakest element of the film. I enjoyed their struggle to form relationships in an adopted country they don’t feel they belong to. Things don’t get better when either character returns to their homeland, because it is just as foreign to them as their adopted country was. The struggle of finding an identity is the most compelling aspect of Gegen Die Wand, much moreso than the attempts Herr Akin makes at incorporating love into the mix. The problem I had with the love aspect of Gegen Die Wand was that it didn’t have the necessary heft to not feel shallow. Outside of the two outsiders grasping at one another aspect, the film never gave me enough of a reason to think the two leads would, or should, fall in love.

The search for identity is a tough one, it is not filled with easy moments. Gegen Die Wand is not filled with easy moments, its characters survive more than they live. They find glimmers of hope in a smile, a bat of the eye lashes, or a person who simply gives them the time of day. That hope is fleeting, instead they suffer through and wallow in a harsh world of despair. Every corner is dark, every new event brings about the possibility of more pain and suffering.

Gegen Die Wand is a bleak film, one that does not offer a sanctimoniously cheery outlook for the future or remembrances of the past. Tradition is just as dangerous as acclimation to a new culture. Sibel and Cahit are doomed because they don’t know who they are, their lack of identity limits who they are and what they can be. They search for meaning in others, and in two cultures that they find completely foreign. When the film ends their lives continue, but they have not found their identities and unrequited love just adds to their misery. Gegen Die Wand presents this harshly and matter of factly, a lack of self does not present the opportunity for cheap copouts. It’s not great, but Gegen Die Wand is a tantalizing look at cultural crisis and the search for self, even if it is in all the wrong places.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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