In the Fade: What Remains, by Rita Cannon

Fatih Akin’s revenge drama In The Fade was inspired by real-life attacks committed by neo-Nazis against Turkish immigrants living in Germany. The increased visibility in the United States of far-right figures like Richard Spencer and events like this year’s alt-right rally in Charlottesville have lent additional relevance and emotional heft to Akin’s film, which would be devastating even if that weren’t the case.

Akin takes us through the intense events of the film in a deliberate, almost businesslike way, essentially dividing the story into three phases. First, we meet Katja (the sensational Diane Kruger) and Nuri (Numan Acar) as they’re about to marry. Katja is a German woman, and Nuri is a Kurdish drug dealer currently serving a prison sentence. We soon jump forward to the couple’s post-prison life, where they operate a tax office in Hamburg while raising their young son Rocco. Nuri and Rocco are in that office when a bomb explodes, killing them both.

We then enter the film’s second phase, as the police gradually narrow in on André and Edda Möller, a neo-Nazi couple who they suspect of planting the bomb, and a trial follows. The trial is portrayed in painstaking practical and emotional detail, and is also where Kruger’s performance really starts to shine. Katja has to remain calm while listening not only to granular forensic details of her husband and son’s deaths, but also to the Möllers’ lawyer while he defends their characters and impugn her own. While Nuri’s involvement in drug trafficking has ceased, Katja still seems to be an occasional drug user, which the Möllers’ lawyer seizes on and uses as an excuse to dismiss her testimony. When the Möllers are eventually found not guilty, In the Fade enters its third and most compelling chapter: Katja’s downward spiral and subsequent pursuit of revenge.

This final section maintains the film’s methodical pace and realist tone, while its themes becomes increasingly complex. Katja’s single-minded mission of violence resembles that of a terrorist in obvious ways, and the film doesn’t ignore that — she even cribs some of her techniques from terrorist websites. But Akin also avoids the simplistic, moralizing path of equating her actions with those of the Möllers. Katja’s pain and rage come from a very different place than those who attack strangers unprovoked. The question of whether she’ll really follow through with her murderous plan, as well as the question of how the viewer should feel about the choice she makes, are both presented as agonizingly multi-faceted. What In the Fade makes clear, particularly though Kruger’s unflinching performance, is that closure in the wake of violence is almost always impossible.

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