In the Fade (“Aus dem Nichts”) (Fatih Akin, 2017) 3 out of 4 stars.
Director Fatih Akin has long explored cross-cultural tension and reconciliation in his films, be they comedies or dramas, drawing on his own background as an ethnic Turk born and raised in Germany to create memorable characters in dynamic narratives that never fail to make us think. My personal favorite of his previous work is the 2007 The Edge of Heaven, which explores how the intersecting lives of multiple characters of both German and Turkish origin lead to unexpected results. Now, in In the Fade (original German is “Aus dem Nichts,” or “Out of Nothing,” which is a much better title, in my opinion), Akin ups the dramatic stakes even further, giving us Diane Kruger as the widow of a Turkish man killed by German neo-Nazis, who vows violent revenge, no matter the consequences. It’s a mostly affecting and harrowing thriller that makes up for lack of subtlety with seriousness of intent.
No matter the occasional weaknesses of the script, Kruger is marvelous. An actress of great linguistic ability (fluent in French and English, as well as her native German), she has long been a solid contributor to films like National Treasure, Inglourious Basterds and The Infiltrator, as well as the FX series The Bridge. Here, she demonstrates a greater emotional range than before, a fact recognized at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, where she won Best Actress. The movie hangs on her performance, which is as raw and powerful as they come.
Shot in a very widescreen aspect ratio – 2.35:1 – the film does not begin that way. Instead, we watch grainy, handheld camcorder footage of Nuri (Numan Acar, The Promise), as he walks his way out of prison, the day of his release, to marry Katja (Kruger). He was serving time for dealing drugs; she waited (he was her dealer). He’s Turkish; she’s German. This is prologue. The main story will be in three parts: “The Family,” “Justice” and “The Sea.” We flash-forward a few years to the good life, post-narcotics, that Nuri and Katja have made for themselves, which includes a precocious young son. Their bliss is not to be, however, as one day a bomb, planted outside of Nuri’s travel agency, explodes: no more family.
What follows is a heartbreaking examination of grief and retribution. Katja embarks on a journey through the German court system that will eventually propel her to Greece, where the film ends in a confrontation between her and the killers. It’s bleak stuff, made palatable by Kruger’s warmth and enduring humanity. Unfortunately, the script is not always up to her challenge, sometimes giving in to expositional dialogue and awkward plotting. It is nevertheless a most worthy movie, ending with a powerful title card that explains the numbers of murders by far-right groups across Germany every year. It is, in other words, extremely relevant to our world today, mitigating many of its flaws. See it.