I don’t understand how anyone can dismiss Fatih Akin‘s In The Fade (Magnolia, 12.27), a traumatic-loss-and-revenge drama starring Diane Kruger, whose performance won the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Actress award last May. You can criticize the film, I suppose, for what it doesn’t address (i.e., European Islamic terrorism) but taken on its own terms, it’s close to unassailable.
In The Fade dispenses chilly, carefully measured hardball realism, and does so in a gripping, emotionally jarring way that I believed top to bottom. It’s now the official German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at next March’s Academy Awards telecast (3.4.18).
Set mostly in Hamburg, Fade starts with Katja (Kruger), her clean-living Kurdish/Turkish husband Nuri (Numan Acar) with a drug-dealing past, and their young son Rocco in happy-family mode. That lasts less than ten minutes. A home-made nail bomb outside Nuri’s office explodes, and Katja is suddenly a child-less widow. She wilts under agonizing pain and a near-total emotional meltdown, and understandably decides to temporarily medicate with drugs, and then nearly ends it all by slitting her wrists.
But a suspicion she’d shared with her attorney, Danilo (Denis Moschitto), about anti-immigrant Nazis having planted the bomb turns out to be accurate. Katja learns that evidence she had given the police has led to the arrest of Andre and Edda Moller (Ulrich Brandhoff, Hanna Hilsdorf), a pair of young neo-Nazis with international connections. There’s no doubt these two are the culprits — Katja had seen Edda leave a bicycle near her husband’s office two or three hours before the blast.
Then comes a second-act portion dealing with a trial of the accused that doesn’t end satisfactorily, and finally a third act in which the acutely frustrated Katja travels to Greece to carry out her own form of revenge-justice.
Co-written by Akin and Hark Bohn, In The Fade draws upon far-right hate attacks against minorities in Germany, which is obviously a thing given the recent nationalist pushback against Syrian refugee immigration. The beef against In The Fade is that Akin has completely avoided the pattern of Islamic radical attacks across Europe, and that focusing only on German Islamophobia is incomplete and disingenuous.
That’s an arguable point, but at the same time I see nothing fundamentally wrong in telling this story solely from Katja’s persepctive. She is dealing with the murder of her husband and son, after all, and is focusing, as nearly all victim-related family members do, on obtaining some form of satisfaction from the punishing of the guilty. I understood and accepted her perspective within this horrific realm.
Kruger’s fierce, emotionally raw performance delivers the primary current, and In The Fade is all but unmissable because of it. Oscar nominations for the 2017 Academy Awards will be announced on 1.23.18, and it sure seems to me that Akin’s film deserves to be among the five finalists.