Racism inevitably leads to violence. And justice is blind.
Katja (Diane Kruger) drops her young son off with her husband Nuri (Numan Acar). She takes the family car for a much needed spa day with a good friend. But when she returns to her husband’s store, to her horror, it’s been bombed.
Life for Katja spirals downward as she learns that her husband and child have perished in the blast. Questions swirl. The police investigate. Because Nuri is Turkish and formerly a convicted drug dealer, the immediate thought is that the bombing is drug related. Katja insists that Nazis are to blame. And she is right.
Not quite a straight-forward revenge tale, “In the Fade” is a fascinating crime procedural that explores the deadly results of extreme racial animus. Reminding us that even today, people all over the world, including some young people in Germany, revere Adolf Hitler. And their deep-seated feelings, so removed from anything found in the mainstream, cause them to become radicalized seeking to lash out at those they see as antithetical to their fanatical beliefs. We live in dangerous times, but radical violence is nothing new.
Katja’s personal quest for justice leads her to rely on the courts. In Germany, according to this film, the victim is represented by a lawyer and the State has a prosecutor. This system is much different than what Americans are familiar with, however, the principals are the same—the accused is innocent until proven guilty. And, naturally, the accused is represented by defense counsel, as the search for justice proceeds systematically.
“In the Fade” painstakingly follows the judicial process as it frustrates Katja. Knowing something in your gut is one thing, proving it in court is another. Evidence is critical, and as the trial of the accused moves forward, you might find yourself shouting at the screen. It is infuriating. The question is: what would you do?
Katja’s flawed decisions that follow will not be wholly satisfactory. But while watching, I kept thinking of the upcoming “Death Wish” reboot, the one starring Bruce Willis and directed by horror auteur Eli Roth. The trailers to that film promise action and thrills as Willis avenges his loss by becoming a street vigilante. Movies often make it look so simple—justice is merely a bullet away.
Director Fatih Akin, who is German born but of Turkish parentage, certainly understands the racial struggles covered in his film. He is assisted by Mark Bohm in writing the screenplay. And the intimate narrative tightly focuses on Katja’s emotional state of mind making us understand the motivation for her actions. Nothing is glamorized or romanticized. Katja is always headed for a major crash. It’s a pretty bleak story.
A contender for the best foreign language Oscar, “In the Fade,” with its direct and uncomplicated approach to a pressing societal problem, is certainly an accessible film. Kruger’s performance is raw and definitely connects with the viewer. It’s a handsome and, at times, riveting procedural. And unlike other films that casually approach the subject of justice and revenge, resolving that a gun is the simple answer, Akin is determined to offer up a word of caution.