Fatih Akin’s In the Fade is an infuriating and devastating film about grief, justice, and revenge that hinges on a wonderful performance by Diane Kruger. After her husband and son are killed in a bomb attack, Katja (Kruger) struggles in her attempts to seek justice for them. Legal channels inevitably fail her, and she must choose to either fight the good fight in court once more, or become the monster she is trying to destroy.
This film opens up with Katja marrying her Turkish husband Nuri (Numan Acar) in a prison community room. He’s serving time for drug dealing, but this doesn’t seem to bother Katja who also dabbled in the world of drugs as a youth. They are both looking towards the future, but the way in which Akin sets up this opening to his film, we know mostly everyone else Katja comes across will be looking at the past. The next time we see them, Katja is dropping off her son to be with Nuri at the business he has created, helping new immigrants from Turkey settle in Germany. The unimaginable happens, and Katja must navigate the abyss that is finding purpose amongst so much grief.
It is at this point that In the Fade becomes a courtroom drama, with Katja called to testify as a witness after seeing a woman leave her bike in front of her husband’s storefront earlier in the day. Because of the meticulous setup before the bombing takes place, the court proceedings intensely unfold, and leave the viewer highly invested in the outcome of the trial even if that outcome is somewhat predictable. We know as well as the prosecution and even the judges that the two defendants, known neo-Nazis, are guilty. The evidence points to them, their own family discredits them, and Katja sees one of them at the scene of the crime. To top it all off, they have a defense attorney that is maddening and intentionally placed there by Akin to make the audience question their own limits to throw a punch. Seriously, that guy is the worst.
But we know that Katja won’t find real justice here. Her attorney urges her to continue the fight in court through appeal, but Katja doesn’t have the strength to sit through another proceeding, staring down Nazis and hearing the gut-wrenching details of her son’s injuries. And again, because of the attention Akin pays to the setup in this film, Katja’s waffling between allowing grief or revenge to consume her is a struggle we as the audience feel along with her. The final act of this film is Katja’s decision-making process in determining the course of her future. The ending is only bewildering if you haven’t been paying attention.
Mostly everything in this film works for me, if you consider it amongst other films of its ilk. There’s a reason revenge plays well on the big screen no matter how implausible it seems. What really sells everything here is Kruger’s performance. She has been largely forgotten this awards cycle, but she did win the Best Actress Award at Cannes for this film in 2017. Watching her here makes we wish we stopped giving Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination for every role she plays Meryl Streep. Kruger is able to run the gamut of emotions from grief, to revenge, to just plain surrender.
In the Fade ends with startling statistics about the uptick in terrorist attacks in Europe against immigrants. This was no doubt a passion project for Fatih Akin, himself a Turkish immigrant to Germany. It’s another reminder about the cycle of violence that terrorism begets over it’s perpetrators as well as it’s victims.
In the Fade opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.