JEDDAH: Fatih Akin, the renowned German director of Turkish descent, has made dramatic cinema his calling card with films like “Head-On,” “The Edge of Heaven” and “In the Fade,” and his Red Sea offering “Rheingold” is just as exhilarating.
First premiered at the Venice Film Festival and based on events in German rapper Xatar’s 2015 autobiography “All or Nothing,” Akin's movie begins on a gruesome note.
The first 20 minutes are intense with Xatar (Giwar Hajabi), played by Emilio Sakraya, being brutalized in a Syrian prison in 2010 by fellow inmates, who want to know where stolen gold is hidden.
This takes Xatar back to childhood memories of his composer father Eghbal (Kardo Razzazi) being jailed at the beginning of the Iranian revolution in 1979.
We are then swiftly taken through the terrifying Khomeini regime, the father’s plight and the spirit of his mother Rasal (Mona Prizad) who, following Xatar’s birth, declares: “Your name will be Giwar, born of suffering.”
“Rheingold” then takes us to Paris in 1986, and to Bonn where Xatar’s refugee family struggles to make a life out of misfortune.
The father abandons his family, leaving Xatar to assume a mountain of responsibility. He wanders into petty crime and drug dealing which results in him spending time at a Cologne juvenile detention center.
The man who emerges hits a reckless path to give his earlier tormentors a hard time.
In Amsterdam he sells drugs and falls in love with his old neighbor Shirin (Sogol Faghani). If she and his supportive mother are constants in his life, there is one more: his love for music, inherited from his father.
Xatar’s resolve to start his own label, and his desperate attempts to finance it, land him in a Syrian prison, and it is only after eight years that he walks out a reformed man.
Akin uses his trademark style of snappy montages, slow motion and freeze-frames to take us on a whirlwind trip through Xatar’s life.
He never lets go of his swagger, even in his darkest moments, steering us through 140 minutes of a strange yet riveting narrative.