In the Fade is a German film that follows a woman on a traumatic, emotional, psychological and legal journey following the murder of her husband and six year old son.
As you would expect this is not a fun trip but the movie is always compelling and as an audience you stick with the protagonist Katja as she goes through each stage of the process in an attempt to gain some kind of closure. Crucially when the resolution comes it isn’t an easy one and this is entirely typical of a story that refuses to make anything black or white. There are villains in the piece and there are victims but no one is a hero in any traditional sense.
Diane Kruger totally owns the film with her portrayal of Katja. Director and co-writer Fatih Akin, born in Hamburg to Turkish parents, has been making movies in and about both of his countries of origin for twenty years. In the Fade continues to explore themes similar to his other work with the murder at the heart of this film being motivated by Nazi racialism but all of this takes a back seat to the experiences of the bereaved wife and mother. Amongst this the reason for the crime is almost irrelevant; it’s the aftermath that matters.
There are lots of films that feature violent deaths, flippantly or otherwise, but few that properly examine the consequences. At no point in this movie do you see the nail bomb explosion that kills the protagonist’s immediate family but you are left under no illusions in regards to exactly what they, and then she, suffer. This hits home early on when Katja asks to see the bodies and is brutally told that ‘they’re no longer people, only body parts’ and is then revisited later. Hard as this is to watch and hear, authenticity is key to the story being told.
The original name of the film is Aus dem Nichts which actually translates to From Nothing. This is a better title than In the Fade which comes from the name of a Queens of the Stone Age song. Josh Homme, the lead singer of that band, does the soundtrack here but I don’t get why they chose that tune. They could have gone for Song for the Dead, The Evil has Landed, Villains of Circumstance or Fortress from Homme’s back catalogue, all of which would have worked better. The lyrics of In the Fade mirror some of this movie’s nihilistic themes but beyond that it I don’t get it. From Nothing has far wider meaning, possibly referring to the senselessness of the hate crime or to how Katja rises to some position of strength having been reduced to her lowest point.
Whatever the title, the film is intriguing, sometimes surprising and brilliantly performed. Whether or not you find it rewarding will depend on your ability to handle ethically interesting resolutions but either way In the Fade should be commended for its portrayal of an individual dealing with a life-shattering event.
Diane Kruger is excellent, switching from being an exposed nerve to calmly harbouring hidden pain. People online, and in some quarters in the press, are talking about her for an Oscar but while this would be deserved that ship has sailed. The film was Germany’s entry to this March’s Academy Awards but failed to get a nomination. It did win Best Foreign Language Film at The Golden Globes and Kruger won at Cannes so it has been decorated.
The Ripley Factor:
Kruger’s Katja is a realistic and flawed character who shows bravery and is, in some respects, an inspiration. As previously suggested she isn’t a typical victim or a traditional champion of triumph over adversity but hers is very specifically a female story.
Is this one for the kids?
There a number of things that can lead to a film receiving an 18 certificate and, with the exception of sex, most of them feature in In the Fade to one extent or another.