"Kruger is powerful, arresting through and through in Akin's woke manifesto."
On paper, Fatih Akin’s searing revenge cautionary tale has a by-the-rote plot, a bereft woman seeks justice on her own terms after legal system fails her, but seen through Akin’s dark-colored glasses, IN THE FADE (named after the song of Queens of the Stone Age, whose lead singer Josh Homme provides a sparse but effectual score here), grittily grapples with the deplorable injustice on the strength of Diane Kruger’s cracking central performance, eventually, it hits the mark as a woke indictment of the surging neo-Nazism, a pernicious global pathology that should be nipped in the bud.
Making allowance for Akin’s Turkish ethnicity, the story seems too close to home, it takes place in Akin’s hometown Hamburg, and like THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (2007),is divided into a triptych: The Family, Justice and The Sea, each is introduced by a faux-documentary snippet, delineating those happy moments in the past.
Kruger plays Katja, a German woman marries to a Turkish ex-con Nuri (Acar), and they have a young son Rocco (Santana), but their bliss is smashed to smithereens when Nuri and Rocco are killed by a nail-bomb, as the intended targets by Neo-Nazis, but ensuing police investigation makes heavy weather of Nuri’s immigrant background and his drug-dealing history, a strategy too topical under today’s climates.
Granted, one must hand it to Akin for not white-washing Katja and Nuri’s foibles, she meets him the first time through a drug transaction in college and it is equivocal whether Nuri still conducts some illegal goings-on sub rosa.Consumed with shock, disbelief and inconsolable grief, Katja resorts to narcotics for comfort, another unwise decision that boomerangs in the Justice segment, also coincidentally, Akin employs a gorysuicidal-wrist-slitting-saved-by-a-phone-call happenstance that echoesIldikó Enyedi’s more mystical yarn ON BODY AND SOUL (2017).
In the following courtroom drama, even with seemingly ironclad evidences,Katja and her lawyer Danilo (a benignly vociferous Denis Moschitto) still lose the prosecution case against two suspects, one of whom she spots right on the crime scene earlier that day, this is where the story becomes a bit vexing, because of Akin’s blatant intention to show audience how lousy the legal system is, for one thing, he completely eschews the angle of the two suspects, projected as the incarnation of pure evil, they are not even being questioned during the entire trial, only sporadically seen through Katja’s strung-out point-of-view.
Also the two suspects' flimsy alibi provided by a Greek fellow extremist is thoughtlessly skirted around, without doubt it takes more than a doctored hotel record to prove two people's presence in another country during the explosion, but Akin doesn’t care to dwell on that,all leverage is left to Johannes Krisch’s vile defense lawyer to chew the scenery, one wonders how soon he will be summoned by Hollywood to amp up his superb dastardliness.
Finally, the third act spirits us away to a picturesque Greece where Katja traces down the two perpetrators and exacts hertit-for-tat retribution (alarmingly, there must be a do-it-yourself manual of nail-bomb available, presumably on the internet), commendably Akin graces her desperation and intrepidity with meaning pointers (the sight of an alighting bird which changes her initial decision, or that menstruation resumption), and rounds off the film with a poetic ending despite its violent means, the reverberations are appreciable.
A tour-de-force from Ms. Kruger must be ranked among any year’s-best list, a grueling task that she takes it to herself in devoting all her body and soul through the unimaginable fire and brimstone with conviction, verve and unstinting sympathy, as she clearly realizes that the film lives and dies with her portrayal as the sole pillar of the narrative, the upshot is arresting, powerful through and through, Cannes' BEST ACTRESS laurels are definitely not for nothing.
referential entries: Akin’s THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (2007, 7.9/10), HEAD-ON (2004, 8.1/10).