Written and Directed by Fatih Akin
Having already won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and having missed a nomination at the Academy Awards for the same category, In the Fade is finally expanding its US release to include some smaller markets, including Columbus. The release patterns of foreign language films can often be frustrating for fans of the world cinema. Oftentimes these are films which have already played notable film festivals, been nominated and even won notable awards all before we even get the chance to see the film. This can cause some nice anticipation, but it also often causes some undue expectations, since these films arrive with some already earned heft, in addition to already feeling stale and old news by the time we get a chance to see them. But, for the most part, these films are worth the wait, as In the Fade is.
Katja (Diane Kruger) is a loving mother and wife. having married her husband, Nuri, a Turkish immigrant, while he was in prison for drug dealing, she now embraces his freedom and her life together with him and their son. But one day, after dropping off their son, Rocco at Nuri’s office, she returns to find the office destroyed by a bomb, killing them both. Now faced with dealing with the passing of the two people closest to her, Katja must cope with what is happened while aiding in the police investigation, which leads to an uncomfortable and gruesome trial against the accused. She finds solace and help in her lawyer Danilo, but struggles with the idea of fair justice, as her life feels more and more cursed.
Certainly not a happy film, In the Fade explores the depths of sorrow, anger and mourning within the human spirit, and how all three can combine for a fairly volatile cocktail. Diane Kruger fuels this movie with her incredible performance. To manage all of those emotions into one character, someone going through so much loss and so much rage is indeed a delicate balance, and one which Kruger strikes with tremendous poise and compassion. And this is clearly a one woman show. The focus is solely on Katja and her journey through these horrors. Any side characters, including her lawyer and the accused are merely there to provide context to her experience. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, that even though Katja is the only one with an arc, by focusing so intently on her, the movie becomes a fascinating character study.
And while we may struggle to fully empathize with her experience, since these horrors should be wished upon no one, Kruger and director Fatih Akin, himself a Turkish immigrant to Germany, do everything within their powers to bring us to this dark place of solitude. By framing the film as he does, Akin breaks the story into three sections, each which bring a new challenge to Katja and the audience, each with its own frustrating hurdle. That Katja is far from perfect, that she doesn’t in fact handle the greatest horror that can be known extremely well makes her human. Katja’s flaws are forgivable for what she is going through, but Kruger’s performance brings true sympathy to the character.
More foreign language films should be relevant in the US, but the language barrier, and having to read subtitles will be a hurdle that US audiences will always struggle with. There is no answer to that quandary. However, for those who do seek out good world cinema, In the Fade is a good entry, and a good way to spend the early months of a new year when more sub-standard films tend to get released, even if that means being a little behind the conversation on a given film in most markets (we can all join together in our jealousy of NY/LA/Chicago!). I liked that In the Fade took chances, that it went places I didn’t want it to, that I didn’t always agree or understand the actions of Katja. I liked that it challenged me like that. And truly, the film is all worth the while simply for a powerful, moving, emotional performance from Diane Kruger.