Even though filmmakers have been dealing with the topic of migration since the 1970s, German-Turkish film was not especially well-known until Fatih Akın's film HEAD-ON (2004). The film, which was awarded the Berlinale's Golden Bear, gained international attention as an expression of the virulent processes of change within the immigration country of Germany. The press wrote that the circulating image of migrants living in Germany had been changed more radically through HEAD-ON than through the migration debates and integration programmes of the last decades. Akın invokes genres of Hollywood cinema and quotes topoi from earlier migration films. However, in this film, he stages a parable about the rebellion against tradition and the emotionally binding nature of a shared social experience. At the center is a psychologically unstable German-Turkish couple who become attached to one another after a bogus marriage, but who ultimately forfeit a shared future through outbreaks of violence and only meet again after a period of individual atonement.
The project 'Shared Experience of Migration in German-Turkish and Turkish Films' explores, among other things, the filmic strategies that emotionally engage spectators. The focus of interest rests, for example, on the protagonists' facial expressions, which communicate changing feelings in a particular manner. It is especially the close-ups that move the spectator to identify with the emotional state behind the facial expression.
Akın stages the sudden change of feelings through the mirroring gazes of the two protagonists through a shot/reverse shot pattern. In the film excerpt, Sibel smiles happily as she enters a bar where her husband, Cahit, just killed his rival Nico. Even before taking a closer look and understanding the situation, Cahit's desperate look becomes a corrective force, towards which she orients her own emotions. The expression in her face slides from happiness to dismay. When Sibel is alone in the flat, a close-up view shows her putting the soundtrack of the Turkish gangster movie, AĞIR ROMAN (as melos), into the CD player, and turning up the volume. The melodiously sorrowful male voice thus becomes a loud voice-over that covers the otherwise mute scene: Sibel enters the bathroom and looks into the mirror, she slowly lifts her head and, in a close-up, sees her distraught face with tears running down her cheeks. Now Sibel's body, sobbing so heavily that it shakes, is shown through the doorframe of the bathroom, situated in the middle of the picture. The moment she steps back her right forearm covered in blood enters the picture. Crying heavily, she sits down on the side of the bathtub and looks at her wound.
This melodramatic scene becomes a reflection of the intended effect on the spectator. After the close-up of the face dissolved in tears, which can no longer offer a surface for the spectator's projections, Sibel's suicide attempt is shown with the secured framing of a distant camera perspective. The music is attuned to the play of gestures and facial expressions in a way that reveals her feelings of being lost. The audience follows the spectacle of interiority as hidden witnesses – as suggested by the enraptured view through the door – and can at least partially empathize with it. The film in its audiovisual language appeals to the spectators' capacity for empathy and renders them the only witnesses of the breakdown. This mise-en-scène emphasizes that Akın's film HEAD-ON, despite many ironic breaks with migration themes, aims for the audience's absolute identification with the protagonists by means of an elaborated filmic language of emotions.