Unconventional Love Stories series: ‘Head-On’

“Head-On”: Cahit and Sibel

An arranged marriage like no other. Cahit and Sibel meet in a rehab center—he for driving drunk head-on into a cement wall, she for slitting her wrists. Sibel is desperate to marry a Turkish man to appease her traditional Turkish parents and escape from a repressive and often abusive household. Sibel sees the self-destructive, freewheeling Cahit as the perfect match.  He’s Turkish and not looking for any kind of romance or commitment, which will enable Sibel “to live and to dance and to fuck. And not just with one guy.” Sibel proposes this marital “façade” to Cahit, who, after some earnest “what the fuck are you thinking” retorts, accepts Sibel’s proposal. Hence begins one of the most tumultuous, intricate and visceral romances depicted in current cinema.

As husband and wife, Cahit is at first intrigued by –Sibel’s uninhibited sexuality—not towards him, but towards men that Sibel seduces. Cahit’s infatuation grows into jealously as he is left alone in clubs while Sibel “gets laid.” Jealousy grows into protectiveness, and eventually Cahit begins to feel desire and genuine love. Cahit and Sibel’s “marriage” is not sexual, so Cahit’s desire awakens through small intimate gestures, like when Sibel cuts his hair and cooks him a traditional Turkish dinner. We know that Cahit’s a goner when he removes Sibel’s clothes from the hangers, breathes in their scent, and sleeps with them. It is a touching moment, considering Cahit’s coarse exterior.

For me, the most unconventional aspect of Cahit and Sibel’s relationship is how they begin to express their love for each other.  Cahit, in  a love-and-alcohol induced swoon, ecstatically slams both his hands down on a bar table, breaking glasses and bloodying his hands. Oblivious to the pain, he joins the torrent of dancers, raising his arms, dripping blood, over his head and eventually climbing onto the stage in a kind of euphoric victory dance. When Sibel and Cahit are forced apart by circumstances that I refuse to spoil, Sibel cuts her hair boy-short, wears baggy, shapeless clothes and essentially embodies Cahit’s heedless lifestyle. It’s as if the only way she can survive Cahit’s absence is if she becomes him.

The best clip I could find was a mediocre trailer for the film, but at least it gives a pretty clear explanation of the plot. And the Wendy Rene song at the end, “After Laughter (Comes Tears),” gets me every time.

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About Vanessa Graniello

Vanessa's film articles and reviews have appeared in The Moving Arts Film Journal, The Alternative Film Guide, and the newsletter for the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY. She is currently an adjunct lecturer in the English Department at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, NY. View all posts by Vanessa Graniello

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