1 Hr., 46 Mins.
In the Fade June 27, 2018
comparable to the Kill Bill films (2003-’04), though: In the Fade is a gloomy exploration of grief that at once indirectly asks us what we’d do in Katja’s shoes and questions whether if what our protagonist ultimately decides to do — take matters into her own hands — was really worth it.
The film, written and directed by the acclaimed German filmmaker Fatih Akin, grows progressively one-note as it wears on. Kruger’s performance is uncomfortably unvarnished; her despondence is scarily believable. The movie, though, is only half-successful at tangibly expressing her anguish, along with the emotional repercussions that come about.
The situations that follow the crime aren’t staged persuasively. If this sort of incident were to take place in the everyday, the media certainly would have taken notice in a way that would entail there be more than one-off news stories. The atrocity that occured — a nail bomb was planted in front of Katja’s husband’s office — was unquestionably a hate crime. But in In the Fade, the heinous incident does not seem to have any sort of corollary on the surrounding community. I don't buy the indifference the movie tries to sell.
Similarly tilted is the way the courtroom-based scenes unfold. Katja’s lawyer (Denis Moschitto) is level-headed and makes a convincing argument. But the defense attorney, speaking for a pair of pretty-faced neo-Nazis who indisputably committed the crime, is one-dimensionally villainous. He makes the case that the murder wasn’t carried out by his clients but by some of Katja’s husbands old, resentful acquaintances. (He used to be a drug dealer — that’s how he and Katja twosome met in the first place.)
The lawyer also questions Katja's integrity. She remembers one of the accused having parked a bike with a questionable compartment attached to the seat in front of her husband’s office. But he brings up Katja’s drug-fueled past, and such causes the jury to ultimately decide that there is room for reasonable doubt, allowing the culprits to break away scot-free. I’m inclined to believe few judges and juries would be as taken with the rebuttals as the ones featured in In the Fade are.
If these scenes contained more emotional shading, outrage would be attainable. But they play out superficially. No one in the courtroom seems moved to sympathize with Katja, who is more often than not portrayed as unstable in individual scenes. And the focused-upon malefactors act in such ways that are inarguably red flags, yet never much seem to have an impact on those tasked with figuring out whether they will be punished.
Displayed, then, is a hackneyed, unpersuasively drawn “Katja vs. The World” sort of act. It might work if we weren’t so certain this verisimilitude were faulty. Akin later obliquely replies that it isn’t: As the closing credits roll, text informs us that hate crimes are on the rise in Germany, which shows trials that comparatively play out in this sort of morally dubious way are not uncommon. Still, Akin’s portrayal of it all is ham-fisted.
In quieter, astutely dispersed moments which even out the histrionic courtroom troubles, we catch glimpses of the great film trapped inside this unevenly good one. We see Katja take drugs to numb her pain, sleep in her son’s bed to remind herself of the days now lost, tearily watching old videos on her iPhone to pretend as though nothing has happened. Her interactions with tone-deaf loved ones are raw; other instances during which she temporarily lashes out are credibly cathartic.
But the overarching objective of each of the film’s acts compromise the glimmers of finesse we see in the details. The courtroom dramas are too far-fetchedly theatrical; the final section, which watches Katja enact the “eye for an eye” argument, disappoints because it, too, goes for thin operatics that culminate in an almost heedlessly nihilistic finale.
Although I don’t think Akin ever aimed to make In the Fade a pronounced courtroom drama or an ebullient revenge lark, the way he presents the movie is so steeped in unsubtleties that it’s difficult to look at the film entirely as the meditation on grief it wants to be. Kruger gives the best performance of her career here. If only the feature supporting her picked up on the same emotional minutiae that she's so attentive toward. C+
n which an emotionally naked Diane Kruger tries to win, but ultimately loses, a battle against grief. In In the Fade, first a courtroom drama, then a revenge thriller, she is a tragic heroine named Katja. A former wild child who’s only recently found peace in her life thanks to a sturdy, if rockily kicked off, marriage, Katja’s once-gratifying life turns anarchical when her Kurdish husband and child are killed in the aftermath of what appears to have been a hate crime.
What comes next isn’t Death Wish (1974)-lite or a delirious crime melodrama