In the Fade (Aus dem Nichts, Germany-France, 2017)

Seeking justice

Writer-director Fatih Akin is probably known more for arthouse fare, such as The Edge of Heaven, however In the Fade is genre-based. That said it did play at Cannes and Diane Kruger won a well-deserved best actress award for her powerhouse performance. Generically it is a thriller, with a revenge narrative, but Akin doesn’t play the genre elements straight as the pacing, after the initial narrative explosion, is fairly slow as Kruger’s Katja comes to terms with her loss. The human element is as important as the genre’s urgency.

I usually find court room scenes the least interesting aspect of crime thrillers but here it was interesting to see how the German judicial system works. However Akin, through the reptilian performance of the defence lawyer Haberbeck by Johannes Krisch, possibly unbalances the presentation by suggesting the system is loaded against the victim. Of course it may be true but this is also a well-worn trope of Hollywood and often used to justify vigilantism such as that practised by the eponymous Dirty Harry (1971); Akin does not have such right-wing sympathies.

What makes In the Fade particularly interesting is the focus on generic elements that are usually glossed over in the desire for narrative pace; such as the protagonist’s grief noted above. There’s also a brief, telling exchange between Katja and one of the witnesses for the prosecution.

Spoiler alert: another key divergence from generic norms is the conclusion which is particularly bleak. As Katja is primed for vengeance she suddenly demurs and we sense a humanist, arthouse, conclusion about not reducing oneself to the level of the aggressors; here the neo-Nazis who have murdered Katja’s husband, of Kurdish extraction, and son. However, the film doesn’t leave it there.

Akin has said he was inspired by actual neo-Nazi attacks on ‘immigrant communities’ and how the police tended to focus on the immigrant group itself rather than right wing extremists. This proves to be a very minor part of the narrative as the focus is on Katja who is in virtually every scene; the police investigation happens offscreen. Hence the film becomes more about personal trauma (her relationship with her parents and in-laws is well-drawn) and so neglects the wider political implications. That would be a different film and one that may be more interesting.

The reason to watch the ridiculously titled In the Fade (it is called more appropriately Out of Nowhere in German) is Kruger’s performance coupled with the generic variations; it’s available on Netflix.

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