Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Fatih Akin
Stars: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Numan Acar, Ulrich Friedrich Brandhoff, Ulrich Krisch, Hanna Hilsdorf, Rafael Santana.
Filmmaker Fatih Akin (Head On, etc) understands the prejudice that Turks and other immigrants experience in Germany. It is this understanding that shapes In The Fade, his latest film, a powerful, challenging and confronting drama about terrorism and prejudice.
Europe is in the grip of a rise in terrorism, fundamental religion, and extremism, and Germany particularly seems to be experiencing a rise in neo-Nazi sentiment, fuelled by outrage against the rise in immigrants and refugees arriving from other war-torn countries in the Middle East. In the early 2000s there was a series of xenophobic killings that targeted immigrants. This forms the backdrop to In The Fade. The final credits contain some disturbing statistics about the rise in hate crimes in Germany.
In The Fade is set in contemporary Hamburg, a city of seething racial tensions. Katja Sekerci (a superb Diane Kruger, from Inglorious Basterds, etc), is married to Kurdish businessman Nuri (Numan Acar, from tv series Homeland, etc), a former drug dealer and prisoner. Now reformed, Nuri runs a small travel agency and does tax returns for the locals. Katja and Nuri have a six-year-old son Rocco (Rafael Santana). One day Katja drops Rocco off at Nuri’s office while she heads off to enjoy a day at a spa with a pregnant girlfriend. An explosive device detonates, destroying Nuri’s office and killing both Nuri and Rocco.
Katja initially sinks into a well of despair and grief. She also fights against the prejudicial assumptions of the investigating police who think that the attack has something to do with Nuri’s past. When Eda (Hanna Hilsdorf) and Andre (Ulrich Friedrich Brandhoff), a pair of neo-Nazis, are arrested for the crime, Katja begins to think that justice will be done. But she watches helplessly as their sleazy defence lawyer (Ulrich Krisch) tries to smear her reputation in court. The outcome of the trial sets Katja on a dangerous path.
In The Fade – a rather obscure title whose meaning is hard to fathom, especially when the German translation of the title means From Nothing – deals with themes of terrorism, revenge, retribution, redemption, prejudice, justice – themes that are still quite relevant and timely today. It serves as a warning against the emerging danger of home grown terrorism, which is often overlooked in the hysteria about ISIS and suicide bombers. The obscure title actually comes from a song by Queens Of The Stone Age. Frontman Josh Homme, who provides the sombre string heavy score here, also fronts another band, Eagles Of Death Metal, which narrowly avoided a terrorist attack at a Paris theatre in November 2015.
Akin, who co-wrote the script with his Goodbye Berlin collaborator Hark Bohm (a lawyer), has broken the film into three distinct chapters, each of which follows Katja through her process from grief to redemption. The lengthy courtroom scenes, which occupy the middle section of the film, are quite tense and gripping, and arguably the best sequences. And Akin doesn’t pull his punches with a rather grim conclusion, which will certainly spark a lot of heated discussion.
German-born actress Kruger, who won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her committed performance as a grieving and emotionally brittle widow looking for justice and answers, delivers an emotional performance here that runs a gamut from raw grief to anger and determination. Her facial expressions effectively convey this range of emotions. This is easily her best performance to date and she gives the film its emotional heft. Denis Moschitto (Closed Circuit, etc) brings a sense of compassion and sensitivity to his performance as Katja’s lawyer Fava. Krisch is chilling as the accused pair’s lawyer.
Akin’s regular cinematographer Rainer Klausmann does a superb job with a different colour palette for each different chapter. A lot of the action takes place in the rain, which further adds to the rather downbeat mood.