Diane Kruger delivers an unbelievable performance in Fatih Akin’s latest.
In the Fade made a splash at Cannes when Diane Kruger was awarded Best Actress for her performance as Katja, a German woman who loses her husband Nuri and son Rocco in a racially motivated bombing committed by neo-Nazis. The film grapples with this heavy subject matter by splitting its story into three acts that are announced by numbered inter-titles. The film opens with the wedding between Katja and Nuri (Numan Acar), who is of Kurdish descent, while he is incarcerated for drug charges.
Then, as act “1 The Family” begins, the film flashes to the present, where we see Katja dropping off their son Rocco (Rafael Santana) at Nuri’s office before borrowing the car. It appears that Nuri is now an accountant who handles visas and other legal troubles for Turkish and Kurdish immigrants as a side job. When Katja returns that evening, she finds the police have barricaded the street in front of his office because there’s been a bombing. She learns that her husband’s office was the target and that both he and her son have been killed.
The rest of the act follows Katja as she seeks advice from Danilo (Denis Moschitto), a lawyer and close family friend, and attempts to cope with her grief. There are certain scenes, notably when Katja enters the ruins of Nuri’s office for the first time, that feel visceral and honest.
Katja clashes with Nuri’s family, her own parents, and the law as she tries to convince everyone that her husband was an honest man and had stopped selling drugs years ago. Finally, the police realize that neo-Nazis were behind the attack, and act “2 Justice” begins. This act follows the trial of André (Ulrich Brandhoff) and Edda (Hanna Hilsdorf) Möller, the neo-Nazi couple convicted of the bombing. Katja’s life continues to push forward as grief and the emotional burden of the trial take their toll on her. Kruger’s performance throughout is sublime and well deserving of her accolades at Cannes.
However, act “3 The Sea” comes suddenly and begins with a huge narrative and temporal leap. It’s difficult to reconcile the melodrama and self-consciousness of the final act with the intense strength and honesty the film has presented until this point. In this act, the film transitions from being a character study in grief with legal undertones to being a full-throttle revenge thriller. The taut final sequence is a pleasure to watch because it’s exciting and agonizing and shocking and everything a thriller should be. But In the Fade isn’t a thriller for its previous 80 minutes.
Akin also made a weak narrative choice by killing Nuri’s and Rocco’s characters within the film’s first several minutes. The audience has no chance to get attached to them and is only provided with a weak feel of their personality through what Katja and other characters have to say and through a few meager flashbacks. But the story’s true failing is its misguided final act, which shifts focus away from Germany’s climate of racial unrest and unjust legal system and away from Katja’s grief; two salient explorations that could and should have been the film’s true focus.
Nonetheless, Kruger’s performance remains an incredible highlight.
In the Fade is directed by Fatih Akin and stars Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, and Numan Acar. The film will open in select theaters in the United States on December 27, 2017. We screened the film at The Museum Of Modern Art’s “The Contenders 2017” series. The evening was supported by Ruffino Wines.
Photo credit: Village Voice.