By Jocelyn Illing, March 7 2018 —
The idea of prematurely losing a loved one is terrifying and unimaginable. Many of us have the luxury of going about our days in a state of blissful ignorance. Yes, there are times of worry, but we try not to let dark hypotheticals consume our thoughts. However, the question remains: What would we do if tragedy struck, with someone we love as a casualty? This is the challenging concept of German filmmaker Fatih Akin’s late-2017 film In the Fade.
Winner of the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, In the Fade tells the story of Katja, a German woman who lives with her husband, Nuri, and young son in Hamburg. One evening, when picking up her son and husband from his workplace, she finds the roads blocked by police. Terrified, she attempts to push past the barriers, only to be stopped by a policewoman who takes her to a nearby building for questioning. Katja is told that there was a bomb attack outside of her husband’s workplace and that police found the bodies of a man and a young boy. After conducting a DNA analysis to confirm that the bodies belonged to her family, Katja attends a court hearing hoping to seek justice, only to be left with a taste for revenge.
Unlike many popular crime dramas, In the Fade felt incredibly raw. Rather than focussing the narrative on the investigation, the film follows a woman’s struggle with coming to grips with her family’s murder and how her despair and yearning for justice transforms into a bitter hatred for both the suspects and the legal system. This character development contains the central twists and turns of the film. The complexity of Katja and her unimaginable circumstance is what kept me on my toes wanting more. Her final act to seek justice and revenge is jaw dropping.
Akin’s creative vision results in a beautiful piece of cinema that reflects on difficult topics in an honest way. The decision to make Katja and Nuri imperfect protagonists adds layers to both the story and the thematic sense of the film.
In the Fade wouldn’t have been as mesmerizing without the incredible performance of Diane Kruger, who portrays Katja with a piercing quality that’s almost impossible to look away from. One memorable scene is the moment in which Katja discovers that her husband and son are dead. Kruger immediately breaks, falling to the ground and crying in agony. Her dedication was well-rewarded, winning the Best Actress Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
The film is also scored by none other than Queens of the Stone Age founder Josh Homme. While this is a major draw for rock buffs in and of itself, there’s a greater context that undoubtedly holds weight. Homme was on stage with one of his other bands, Eagles of Death Metal, during the 2015 terror attack at the Bataclan in Paris, France. The emotion put into the quality soundscape is undeniably personal in nature.
With such a compelling story, stellar performances and interesting creative choices, one would expect In the Fade to be a frontrunner for the Academy Awards. Somehow, it failed to make the cut — a failure on the Academy’s part. Nevertheless, In the Fade is a beautiful film that should be watched by all.