The Best Picture Oscar-nominated film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is currently (and rightfully) getting a lot of praise for its exploration of grief and anger. Whereas Three Billboards uses black humour to deliver its message, this year’s German Best Foreign Language film entry””In the Fade“”takes a more serious approach, taking audiences on a deep dive into what it means to lose the ones you love.
Directed by Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven), In the Fade is told in three parts. The first introduces us to Katja Sekerci (Diane Kruger), a German woman who is married to Nuri (Numan Acar), a man of Kurdish decent, and their young son, Rocco. Katja’s idyllic life is ruptured one day when her husband and child are killed in a bomb attack. The incident itself isn’t shown, but Katja’s reaction to the news is all we need. The focus quickly turns to who’s responsible and why. Was it racially motivated? Someone from Nuri’s drug-dealing past? The questions posed lend the movie a contemporary relevance, but this is as far as the exploration goes. This is ultimately a look at the physical and emotional toll this traumatic event has on Katja.
The film shifts in tone and the pace slows for the second chapter, becoming a courtroom procedural as the neo-Nazi pair accused are put on trial. The constant use of black and white hues lends the scenes an appropriate coldness that pervades the trial, the dual colours a metaphor for the clear-cut nature of the law. Here logic””however flawed””trumps emotion.
The tone of the film changes again for the last segment as we follow Katja in Greece bent on vengeance. Although there are flashes of a good thriller or noir, this is ultimately where the film falters. The climax proves to be unsatisfying, the rigid focus on Katja leaving no room for the antagonists to develop; their fate being something we care little about.
What ultimately makes In the FadeÂ arresting, however, is Kruger’s performance. The frequent use of close-ups show us Katja’s face. The shock of her loss and the despair in her eyes are plain to see. During the court hearings her expressions communicate what words adequately cannot; a quiet anger and disbelief contrasted against the emotionless faces of those on trial. It’s the subtle things Kruger does that make this intimate portrait of pain so detailed.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10