Grief is a complex thing and it can take you places that you’d never imagine…
In the wake of a tragic and violent act that rips the life of a young mother into a million piece; In The Fade fresh off its Golden Globe win for best foreign film doesn’t exactly mine any new territory but it does feature a career elevating performance in a piece where all involved are not afraid to punch their audience straight in the gut as hard as they can.
Katja (Diane Kruger) is seemingly living a normal life until it is all taken away from her and her life goes to pieces after her husband Nuri and little son Rocco are killed in a bomb attack. Her friends and family try to give her the support she needs, and Katja somehow manages to make it through the funeral. But the mind numbing search for the perpetrators and reasons behind the senseless killing complicate Katja’s painful mourning, opening wounds and doubts with everything that she’s ever known and valued. Danilo, a lawyer and Nuri’s best friend, represents Katja in the eventual trial against the two suspects: a young couple from the neo-Nazi scene. The trial pushes Katja to the edge, but there’s simply no alternative for her: she wants justice.
It’s a singular yet completely engaging story forcing us to take a hard look at things like anger and grief in an incredibly visceral way. In The Fade is simplistic and even at times basic yet wholly bold at the exact same time as writer/director Fatih Akin gives us something compelling and brave yet also deeply flawed that is anchored by a performance from Kruger that will leave anyone with a soul on the edge of their seats.
Akin has had a hit and miss record over his career but for the first time since his 2007 The Edge of Heaven we have got something that is truly singular and allows us to focus on one person’s journey rather than a grander story. Sure there are ancillary characters around, but Akin is pretty efficient in making sure that anyone who could be of distraction eventually falls into the background of Katja’s life. He gives us a back story of a flawed character (basically a human being) and allows for it to not play out in any redemptive cinematic style. Things get fucked up, and what we know to be true doesn’t always count for what they should, Akin lets that pain seep through with his sharp and stunning sense of framing his leading lady, a willingness to show her at absolute bottom and an actress who simply manages to capture the mind numbing human embodiment of grief and what that can physically do to a person.
German born and raised but having found her fame in both France and America, Kruger has been consistently underrated in her work in both French and English films since her breakthrough in 2004’s Troy. Always solid yet never stealing the show, this time out working in German for the first time is where she truly gets the chance to shine and show off her acting chops. She’s not just playing the grieving widow; she inhabits it as she shows us the grief of this character that is quite literally eating this woman alive. Kruger makes it compelling and humanistic to the point that we simply ache with her at every overwhelming emotion turn. We fall away from any of the trappings of storytelling and the flaws that it might bring as we get overwhelmed with everything that Katja is experiencing. It’s a performance for the ages to be sure and hopefully one that will garner even more attention coming down the line. The rest of the ensemble is solid, but it’s all about one performance in this film and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that…
In The Fade isn’t grandiose in any kind of way, and really it isn’t supposed to be. It’s a hard, dirty, painful experience which is what inconsolable grief truly is, and everyone involved makes sure that we can’t look away from the kind of pain and hate that is on display here, so we can make sure that it doesn’t necessarily have to happen again. It’s the reminder of the human experience that we all occasionally need, taking the bad with the good to make ourselves better and to share that with others.
- Release Date: 1/19/2018