While in New York to experience the last days of the Gates I managed to catch Gegen die Wand at the Angelika in the Village. This is a terrific film which can be interpreted on many levels. At its most basic, it is a gritty love story of two damaged people. But it is also a film about the crisis of identity in multicultural society. The two principal characters are Turkish-German and are therefore marginalized to begin with. The man - Cahit - is a punk-anarchist bent on self-destruction. The girl - Sibel - is suffocating in a traditional Turkish family. Both see suicide as their only solution - and that's how they meet. Sibel and Cahit live between two cultures. They are most comfortable speaking German - Cahit's Turkish is supposedly less than perfect - and yet German only gives them only a tenuous connection with German society. There is virtually no interaction with non-Turkish Germans. Cahit sees a psychiatrist - a Dr. Schiller - whose "therapy" consists in exhorting Cahit to leave the country (advice he eventually does take to heart). Sibel is jealous of the freedom she perceives her German peers have - freedom to have casual sex and take drugs. Paradoxically it is the shattered Cahit that she latches on to as her ticket to freedom. In the end, both end up in their 'homeland' - Turkey - a strange land they have never known. The characters are abrasive and shocking in their violent urge for self-destruction - but you cannot keep your eyes off them, and slowly you begin to care deeply about their fates. Gegen die Wand is an outstanding film and deserves the awards it has won.
By the way, I had originally intended to see Der Untergang (Downfall) - which opened last week in New York to considerable buzz - but all weekend performances were sold out. So even though Untergang did not get the Oscar last night, I predict it will find a huge audience in the US.