Despite a Best Actress win at Cannes for Diane Kruger and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, Fatih Akin’s In the Fade is a film that feels more well-intentioned than the power it wants to yield. This isn’t to say that film, as a whole, doesn’t work; there’s just a lack of focus that eventually muddies its purpose.
If you wanted to whittle the plot down to a single sentence, In the Fade is a character study of a woman dealing with an unimaginable loss. But you could also describe it as warning against the dangers of white supremacy and extremism. The problem inherent in the film, however, is that neither of these aspects quite makes a cohesive whole, mostly because of the disappointingly salacious way film finally resolves itself, leaving the point — and the power — of it all a bit muddled.
The film revolves around the death of Nuri (Numan Acar, 12 Strong) and his son Rocco (Rafael Santana) at the hands of a bomb blast, and the ways in which his wife, Katja (Kruger), must deal with the aftermath. This includes a short struggle with drug abuse and suicidal tendencies, having to answer questions about her husband’s past as a convicted drug dealer and, later, the revelation that the bombing was perpetrated by neo-Nazis. This splits the film into three distinct acts — Katja’s mourning period, the trial of the murderers and the consequences of the verdict.
The ways in which Akin paints the portrait of Katja is generally impressive, not to mention the same ways in which Kruger carries the role. It’s an emotional performance, one that oscillates among points of pain, anger and confusion. For the most part, the film doesn’t get too melodramatic, at least in its first two acts, as In the Fade transitions from a story of loss to a courtroom drama. Despite being bound to a courtroom, the trial is the tensest and most interesting portion of the film, mainly due to Kruger’s and Denis Moschitto’s (Closed Circuit) performances and the plot unraveling in a taut and sensitive way. Akin gets the most out of Katja’s emotional state — a mix of shock, disgust and heartbreak — and manages to make the confined spaces of the trial stylistically interesting.
Things unravel a bit once the film transitions into part three and takes on the look of a revenge flick. It’s almost as if this is the only route the film thinks it can take, despite continually giving itself options to turn away from what an audience will expect of it. It even leaves an out for itself in the scenes leading to its own coup de grace, giving Katja the possibility of some sort of radical forgiveness.
But instead, the film ends up in the most rote and least complex manner imaginable, punctuated by a needless second-to-last shot that lacks any real artistry. Then the film tacks on a message about the rise of violent white nationalist groups in Germany, while never using this aspect of the plot in any real, thoughtful manner.
It’s not enough to sink the movie as a whole, but it’s not as powerful a final scene as Akin and company seem to think it is. It definitely doesn’t get the emotional response it wants, something unfortunate when a much more morally complex ending is sitting there all along. Rated R for some disturbing images, drug use, and language including sexual references. Now showing at the Grail Moviehouse.