Akin goes decidedly more mainstream in this uneven drama fronted by an excellent Diane Kruger.
Dir. Fatih Akin
2017 | Germany | Drama/Thriller | 106 mins | 2.35:1 | German, Greek, English & Turkish
NC16 (passed clean) for some disturbing images, drug use, and language including sexual references
Cast: Diane Kruger, Numan Acar, Adam Bousdoukos
Plot: Katja’s life collapses after the death of her husband and son in a bomb attack. After a time of mourning and injustice, Katja seeks revenge.
Awards: Won Best Actress (Cannes); Won Best Foreign Language Film (Golden Globes)
International Sales: The Match Factory
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed at the German Film Festival ’18)
A surprise winner of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, In the Fade is already Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin’s ninth fiction feature to date, and he’s only 45. It’s not a great film though, a far cry from such outstanding works like the Golden Berlin Bear winner, Head-On (2004), and Cannes Best Screenplay winner, The Edge of Heaven (2007), which could be his finest hour. Still, it won Best Actress for Diane Kruger at Cannes last year. Kruger, as you may already know, broke out internationally as a promising star for her role in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) nearly a decade ago.
Here, she is instrumental in how In the Fade has been constructed and perceived. For one, it is only her second German-speaking role, and possibly her best performance to date, elevating what might have been a low-key and inconsequential effort by Akin. She plays Katja, a caring mother to a precocious little boy and wife to a Turkish husband who owns a modest consultancy firm that provides translation services. The plotting begins when Katja (in the film’s most emotionally devastating sequence) finds out that her husband and son were tragically killed in a bomb attack.
The bombing in the film was loosely based on the 2004 terrorist attack in Cologne, a bombing carried out by neo-Nazis targeting Turkish immigrants.
What plays out becomes an exercise in tone and structure that produces varying results. Split into three chapters, namely, “The Family”, “Justice” and “The Sea”, In the Fade sees Akin and his cinematographer create different visual styles for each chapter. “The Family” has a rougher edge, capturing the raw emotions of grief, while “Justice” has a clean and crisp look, complementing many of the courtroom scenes; “The Sea”, on the other hand, is suffused with soft lighting and feels less raw or sharp than the previous two chapters. I will leave you to discover what goes on in each chapter, but content aside, the overall feeling is uneven.
There are some great moments, especially in Akin’s skilful drawing out of tension, be it in the heated courtroom debates or Katja doing her own sleuthing. A decidedly more mainstream film than Akin would dare to admit, In the Fade explores with some ambition the core issues of discrimination and hate at the heart of modern society. One might not come away feeling incredibly illuminated, nor is it a powerful work to begin with, but the film does raise some interesting questions about the nature of terrorism and justice.