After winning the Golden Globe for best foreign language film earlier this month, In the Fade was snubbed in the same category by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this past Tuesday morning. All this proves is that awards are a fickle thing. Sure, there are plenty of prognosticators who look at trends that might dictate nominees and winners, and this writer hasn’t been too bad at guessing who will win. However, the quality of a film lies in its filmmaking, not in its popularity, and In the Fade stands as one of the stronger films this critic saw last year during the hype of awards season.
Two factors lift this film above many of the other movies I watched in 2017, a number that stands somewhere around 100. Number one is the lead performance by Diane Kruger, who won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Director Fatih Akin, who co-wrote the script with Hark Bohm, never shortchanges her acting skills by putting her through the ringer playing a woman in deep bereavement. We meet her character, Katja Sekerci, in happier times, as she marries Nuri Sekerci (Numan Acar) just as he exits prison for time served in dealing drugs. After establishing a legitimate business in Berlin, they go on to have a little boy together. One day, after she leaves them at the office, a bit stressed and in a rush, a bomb kills her family.
As it happens too often, in order to spare the often hard sell moment of grief striking a protagonist, the film could have easily skipped Katja’s immediate reaction to the delivery of the news of her family’s murder. However, this movie follows every step of the widow’s distress, uncertainty, helplessness and grief that ultimately leads to a desire for justice. It’s all about Katja’s place in the aftermath of this upending event, and Kruger delivers a heartbreaking performance that also should not have been overlooked by the Oscars (but since it’s a foreign language film…). She performs on a broad scale of feelings that speak to her character’s perceptions and inner feelings while never falling into cheap melodrama or, God forbid, camp.
The other factor that keeps this film compelling is its tight, dramatic structure and the controlled editing and camera work that speaks to its efficiency, making for a taut thriller. The events also speak not only to Germany’s problems but also the violent culture of our times across the globe. In the Fade offers a complicated picture of immigration bias, terrorism, Neo-Nazism that remains a problem in Germany and — in general — the role grief plays in extremist action. From the setup of this loving family with a flawed background to how it plays into the search for justice barreling toward a tense confrontation by film’s end, the film never over steps a range of believablity. Katja’s character is well rounded and Kruger informs her actions with great depth and honesty.
In the Fade runs 106 minutes, is in English, German and Greek with English subtitles and is rated R. It opens in our Miami area at Tower Theater Miami, Bill Cosford Cinema, Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale and Cinema Paradiso Hollywood. For screenings in other parts of the U.S., visit this link. Magnolia Pictures sent us a DVD screener for awards season consideration.