In the Fade
Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Numan Acar, Ulrich Brandhoff, Hanna Hilsdorf
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…a mediocre film wrapped around and weighing down a truly great performance.
After her Kurdish-born husband Nuri (Numan Acar) and six year old son are killed in a terrorist bombing, Katja (Diane Kruger) all but falls to pieces. With the help of her lawyer – and best friend to her deceased partner – Danilo (Dennis Moschitto), she manages to pull it together enough to seek justice through the German legal system, an endeavour complicated by Nuri’s past as a drug dealer and his status as a Muslim immigrant at a time when paranoia about Islamic fundamentalism is high. Suspicion falls on a neo-Nazi couple, Andre and Edda Moller (Ulrich Brandhoff and Hanna Hisldorf), but when the system fails to find them guilty, Katja’s thoughts turn to more immediate and visceral forms of retribution.
In the Fade‘s chief asset is an incredible, raw and affecting performance by Diane Kruger as the grief-stricken Katja. In Kruger’s hands the character is an open wound, struggling and clearly failing to cope with a nigh-unimaginable load of grief, rage and pain. The script by Fatih Akin, who also directs, isn’t afraid to let her make some poor choices in her crisis, either – turning to drugs for solace, lashing out at those around her, and gradually tacking towards a path of destruction.
Outside of Kruger’s singular award-winning turn, though, the film frustrates. Divided into chapters, the narrative feels artificial even as it strives for naturism in its depiction of contemporary life in Hamburg. Its focus is so firmly on Katja that other characters are ciphers – we’re left to our own devices to figure out relationships and shared pasts from little context. The result is that our investment isn’t quite what it should be.
As In the Fade moves inexorably toward what looks to be a tragic conclusion, there’s a natural curiosity as to whether the film will cleave to or subvert the expectations it’s set up. The film is so stridently trying to illustrate some Important Contemporary Issues – complete with a closing moments blurb to tell us just how Important and Contemporary those Issues are – that it sacrifices too many of the tools and techniques that could help make those themes land with the viewer. The result is a mediocre film wrapped around and weighing down a truly great performance. In the Fade is, all said, a missed opportunity.