The first two acts of German film “In the Fade”, which won the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film early in this year but did not get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar despite being included in the category’s short-list in last December, is so absorbing that it is disappointing to see the movie fizzling out during its middling third act. I like how the movie steadily builds up its emotional tension via a number of harrowing moments of raw emotions during its first two acts, but I am dissatisfied with how it stumbles with blatantly contrived moments during its third act, and that is a shame considering its strong lead performance, which surely deserves a better film in my trivial opinion.
Diane Kruger, a German actress who has been mainly known for appearing in several major Hollywood films including “Troy” (2004), “National Treasure” (2004), and “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), plays Katja Şekerci, a married German woman who has lived happily with her ex-con husband Nuri (Numan Acar) and their young son Rocco (Rafael Santana). As shown from their wedding video, she and Nuri had to have their wedding in a prison where he was incarcerated for his drug crime, but that inconvenience did not matter to both of them as they were deeply in love with each other, and Nuri subsequently changed himself a lot. After getting a college degree and then being released from the prison, he has been a model citizen running a legitimate business in Hamburg, and he has also been a good husband and father to his dear family.
When Katja drops off their son at Nuri’s office and then spends some free time with her close friend, things look all right as usual, but, when she is returning to his office several hours later, she belatedly comes to realize that a horrible incident happened while she was away from her husband and son. Not long after she left Nuri’s office, a homemade bomb, which was hidden in the travel compartment of a bicycle, was exploded right in front of the office, and both Nuri and their son were killed as a consequence.
Quite devastated by this sudden terrible loss, Katja becomes more morose and sorrowful day by day. As she does not get much support or help from her mother or her Turkish parents-in-law, she tries to numb her growing pain through drugs, but drugs alleviate her pain only for a while, and she eventually goes down and down to her bottom of despair while becoming more distant to everyone including her close friend.
And then there comes a good news from the police. Two suspects are arrested, and, as Katja suspected from the very beginning, these two suspects turn out to be Neo-Nazi members. In addition, one of these two suspects is a woman whom Kajta witnessed parking that bike right in front of Nuri’s office shortly after she left Nuri’s office.
Katja is certainly ready to testify at the upcoming trial, but the trial becomes more complicated than expected. Although Katja tries to look calm as much as possible, she cannot help but agitated as watching two people who are apparently responsible for her husband and son’s death, and she becomes all the more agitated as the lawyer defending them ruthlessly undermines the arguments of the prosecution step by step. While constantly emphasizing that there is not any strong evidence against his clients, he presents their alibi via a rather shady guy, and then he thoroughly tarnishes Katja’s testimony as pointing out the police record of her recent drug use.
As her character trembles more and more behind her barely composed façade, Kruger fully demonstrates her considerable acting ability to us, and it is no surprise that she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival in last year. While quite convincing in her character’s dramatic emotional arc along the story, she is also superlative in a number of small moments in the film, and I particularly like a brief scene showing her character’s accidental encounter with a witness who willingly testifies against two suspects. The mood between her and that witness in question is awkward to say the least, but they show some understanding and compassion to each other, and the result is one of the most poignant moments in the film.
As eventually entering its third act, the movie attempts to shift its gear onto a different mode, but its attempt is not successful because the screenplay by director Fatih Akin, which is based on the story he wrote with his co-author Hark Bohm, hesitates to go further along with its heroine around that narrative point. As feeling the need for justice more than before, Katja comes to decide to do something drastic for herself, and we certainly come to wonder what will happen next, but we are just served with several glaring moments of plot contrivance, which only lead to a half-baked finale which does not resonate much with what is told to us before the end credits.
On the whole, “In the Fade” does not work as well as intended, but it is not a total failure at least, and it will be probably regarded as a curious misfire in Akin’s admirable filmmaking career. I must confess that I only watched “The Edge of Heaven” (2007) and “Soul Kitchen” (2009), but these two different films were more than enough for me to see that Akin is a very interesting filmmaker, and, to be frank with you, I am now considering revisiting both of them someday.