In the Fade sees Natja Sekerci (Diane Kruger) free-spirited, tattooed mother tragically lose her husband, German-born Kurd, Nuri (Numan Acar) and their young son Rocco (Rafael Santana), cruelly blown to bloody smithereens in a targeted Neo-nazi terrorist attack. The perpetrators, a white supremacist married couple, members of the National Socialist Underground who also appear to have close links with international right-wing groups, are found and arrested only to be released unpunished after a long drawn-out court case aided by an unscrupulous defence lawyer Haberbeck (Johannes Krisch) who turns the evidence on its head and manages to portray Natja and deceased Nuri as unreliable, drug fiends.
Once the prolonged courtroom dramatics reach their climax, the film changes gears and moves into genre noir territory with Natja taking matters into her own hands, seeking her own retribution. Following a lead from evidence submitted in court, Natja investigations leads locates them hiding out in a camper van in a Greek sea-side town, under the protection of a local accomplice, a member of Greek far-right group Golden Dawn. What follows is a series of stakeouts until Natja executes her fatal revenge, embroiling herself in the process.
The film took the prize for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Golden Globes, but was bypassed for an Oscar nomination as pehaps under greater scrutiny the cracks in the films narrative surface. However this is possibly Kruger’s finest hour, in suprisingly her first role ever in a German-speaking film. Appearing in almost every single scene, the film rests soley on her shoulders. Kruger, fully embracing the challenge, bulldozes her way with ease to give an exceptional portrayal, saving the film from total mediocrity. Moving through the stages of shock to delirium to numbness to unbearable grief, refusing to be consoled, unable to comprehend the magnitude what’s happened and its morphing into rage and ultimately leading to accepted fatalism.
It often becomes an uncomfortable watch as Kruger's unabashed performance proves too real, too unpalatable to take in. In court she wears her sorrow and anger as a badge, often unashamedly erratic, unhinged and uncontrollable, even attempting to attack her offenders when nobody is looking. And even in the film’s unlikley denouement, Kruger injects a naturalism and physicality to her trailing activities, remaining convincing in a despite a predictable narrative her character is placed in.
Director Fatih Akin claims this is his most personal film yet, which is surprising after previous superior efforts; his superb debut Head On or 2007’s exceptional The Edge of Heaven. Seemingly influenced by the frictions of a multi-cultural Germany, a timely matter but its refection in the story is perhaps too obvious. The manner in which court room antics are choreographed to pull at the heartstrings or the acerbic lawyer using her drug-taking to discredit Katja or the sheer fact injustice prevails despite the mounting of evidence, the accused father saw his son in his garage with bombing material. Furthermore, the film's disjointed ending, which I found most engaging, would be better as a sperate entity, film on its own all together. Granted the film is smooth and well-turned out with Akin’s regular cinematographer Rainer Klausmann at the helms; consisting of in and out zooming of Kruger’s faces, or hand-held jirky camera techniques as we observe the tragedy unfold through Katja's eyes, ramping up the tension to the max.
Upon reflection In the Fade is rather contrived, generic and an overly-dramatic affair, but thats not to say I wouldn't recommend it. Besides its slickness and its meticulous execution, its an intensly emotive film worth watching just for Kruger's stellar performance, a career best for her.
In The Fade is out now.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_
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