Head butting is more like it, in Fatih Akin’s punkish Head-On — bad attitudes and a battle of wills between a couple of suicidal Turkish Germans who can’t decide whether to fall in love or bleed to death. Permanently scowling Cahit (Birol Ünel), who lives a yowling, beer-guzzling bum’s life in Hamburg, drives a car into a wall in a bid for death; pretty Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) is ready to slit her wrists — again — if Cahit, whom she meets in a psychiatric clinic, won’t wed her, at least in name, to free her from the choking control of her conservative Muslim family. So he does.
Can this marriage be saved? Akin’s showily grimy Berlin Film Festival prizewinner is propelled by ferocious sex, nasty violence, and coy interludes of traditional Turkish love songs warbled by a folk band on the banks of the Bosporus; it’s also propped up by scenes of Turkish-German conflict that tell much less about cultural collision than about what arbitrarily self-destructive crazies these two are. When the unheroic hero of the great 2001 film Late Marriage fights family and tradition, for instance, the balance of cultural and dramatic truth is exquisite. But when Cahit rubs his hands in broken glass or Sibel is raped, uprooted ethnicity is only a cover of exoticism.