AFI Fest Review: ‘In The Fade’ Tackles Topical Drama Well Enough

Aaron Neuwirth reviews the emotional drama In The Fade, the film that earned Diane Kruger a Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.

There’s an awful lot of satisfaction to get from seeing punishment given to those partaking in ugly ideological practices in movies. In the Fade delivers that sort of drama by placing its lead character in the middle of a tragic situation created by neo-Nazis. It’s the sort of subject matter that makes it an easy sell to the Cannes Film Festival, where Diane Kruger won the Best Actress award this past spring. Still, the film places its lead on a grief-stricken journey that finds her dealing with suspicions, judgment and vengeance. There’s a stripped-down quality to the production, and I felt it benefited from being a low-key affair.

Kruger stars as Katja, a mother to 6a 5-year-old-son, Rocco (Rafael Santana), and the wife of a Kurdish man and Turkish immigrant, Nuri (Numan Acar). Living in Hamburg, Nuri has a checkered past that put him in prison, but he’s put that behind him for the sake of a new life with his wife. Unfortunately, this is all taken away from Katja, as Nuri and Rocco are both killed in a bomb attack. Divided into chapters, the film goes about handling Katja’s grief, the judicial process once two neo-Nazi suspects are arrested, and the decision of whether or not to seek justice.

Written and directed by German filmmaker Fatih Akin, In the Fade attempts to feel presented as raw as possible. Filmed with the sort of naturalistic lens seen with many of Akin’s arthouse contemporaries, there is a stripped down presentation here that makes way for the clear drama unfolding. The film is relatively uncomplicated, and because of that down-the-line approach, it is not much of a challenge for the audience. Not that there’s a need to deepen the conflict between a grieving woman and the neo-Nazis jerks who took everything from her, but the film is mainly highlighting the issue of hatred in the world rather than examining it more closely.

So be it, I say, however, as the film effectively pulls off being frequently emotional and taut. That may mean the incredibly manipulative second act focused on a trial has its share of issues, but it is no doubt compelling to watch unfold. There may not be the precision of a Sidney Lumet drama on display in these scenes, but it further hits the viewer with a point about the injustice that has spread over the world.

As the film plays out, Kruger’s emotional performance is what leads the way. Settling nicely into film roles such as Inglourious Basterds and television (the American version of The Bridge was a great series), it’s not a revelation to see her be capable in a drama, but the way this film unpacks aspects about her character works so very well. It’s enough to make the film’s final chapter more affecting thanks to the balance of revenge thriller theatrics with introspection.

Some may bristle at how the film eventually finds itself pushing viewers into a conundrum concerning the appropriate measure to take in this fictional scenario. However, I fell for the emotional anguish being presented and wanted to know where it was heading. Given how the film sticks to its convictions, it speaks all the more to what Akin intends to accomplish.

In the Fade is a film with grave concerns about where society is today. It goes about addressing them by way of a familiar plot with a strong lead performance. The unrelenting drama rarely lets up, making the film watchable but dark. This may mean filing the film under a particular category as far as when to get to it, but it is a worthwhile feature to see, let alone discuss.

Written by
Aaron is a movie fanatic and loves talking about such things…a lot. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. His mind is full of film knowledge and random trivia, but he is always open to learning more, whether it’s through box office stats, reviewing Blu-rays from The Criterion Collection or simply hearing first hand from filmmakers and others about various productions and behind-the-scenes tidbits.

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