The suspenseful drama In the Fade provides Diane Kruger the opportunity to excel in her craft in a bravura performance not seen before. For it jurors awarded her the Best Actress prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Because Germany selected In the Fade as its official submission for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film, the story’s currency and stark, trenchant power bears seeing.
Katja, (Kruger), girlfriend of a Turkish-Kurdish immigrant Nuri Sekerci, a drug dealer she met in college, accepts Nuri and loves him enough to want to make a life with him. Their bond sustains them through his prison term for drug trafficking and encourages their success. After they marry and have a 5-year-old son, Nuri Skerci (Numan Acar), transforms himself, eschews drug dealing and establishes a growing business.
Appreciably, the director/screenwriter Fatih Akin reveals their loving marriage and happiness as the key to the events that occur before, during and after the conflict evolves. Also, their bond sanctions Katja’s response to the incredible dynamic that evolves because of Nuri’s religion and ethnicity considered anathema in segments of German society. Particularly well drawn expositional scenes of their union suggest that love, tolerance, and acceptance may triumph over fear, discrimination and xenophobia. Though nihilistic behaviors and attitudes against immigrants have attempted to take hold in the social culture of various EU countries and the US, Nuri’s and Katja’s relationship shines beyond retrograde impulses. After all, perhaps love answers all things.
Indeed, this concept becomes the centerpiece in the network of themes spiraling out from Akin’s relevant suspense drama. Though Katja and eventually their families who originally opposed the marriage later accept both, other citizens in Hamberg, Germany, where they live do not embrace such a liberal and forward-thinking approach toward immigrants. In fact the global movement against people of color and the Muslim religion moves in an online network that spreads suspicion and disunity for political purposes.
After the opening sequences, the drama unfolds abruptly and shockingly. While her husband and son are at his place of business, an explosion occurs. Looking to identify those killed, the police can only pick up charred body fragments, who they later DNA identify as Katja’s beloved husband and child. As both families plunge into mourning after the terrible shock, Katja’s love takes her immeasurably beyond a “normal” grieving process. Katja, lost everything of value in the bomb blast. Most acutely, she believes she has no credible purpose in life. And at a turning point after her son’s and husband’s death, she attempts an unsuccessful suicide.
Nevertheless, the police provide a certain hope for justice. Initially, they look for competing drug traffickers with the motive to dispatch their rival. However, Katja insists that Nuri stopped dealing. Also, she provides eye-witness testimony which bears fruition. As Katja left her husband’s business, she warned a blonde woman not to leave her bike with a black carry box unattended. Could the black carry box have held the bomb?
Eventually, with this information and her identification of the woman, police arrest two suspects, André and Edda Möller. Interestingly, this young neo-Nazi couple with international connections, supports hate crimes against Muslims, immigrants, the “dark ones.” Katja suspects that Nazis murdered Nuri because of his ethnicity and religion. As it turns out police confirm her suspicions. And on her testimony and other solid evidence, the prosecution charges the neo-Nazis with double murder.
As Akin develops this fast-paced thriller, we understand the underlying problems of alien cultures. Because religion and ethnicity hamper them from easily mainstreaming into German society, their “otherness” targets them for noxious cultural backlash. Problematically, the growing resentment from neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups fuels divisiveness. As the divisiveness and rancor augment, animosity and imagined affronts of these “aliens” carer into violence, and this propagandistic culture of violence begets violence.
Unfortunately, because of the internet, the white supremacist networks spread globally. And their connections provide monetary and weapon-making assistance. On the one side Muslims have been demonized with the aid of ISIS terrorists. And on the other side, white supremacists feel justified in countering with hate and violence. With an answer sufficient to politicize, neo-Nazi violence becomes the way to reclaim their power in the culture. Hence, with fearful rhetoric and action they move to ban or eject alien groups “righteously,” when the state fails to do so. If they cannot eject them, they will harass, threaten or kill them. And a cycle of violence repeats as “aliens” retaliate or attempt to gain justice through the culture’s legal systems.
In particular the filmmaker underscores that such attitudes breed a lose-lose situation. In point of fact Katja’s and Nuri’s love brought two cultures together in harmony. Nuri received redemption through his love for Katja and through raising their multi-cultural son. However, the white supremacist terrorists obliterated the shining example of love. They used their marriage union to foment a hateful warning that races and cultures must not mix.
Importantly, Akin raises these thematic questions. How should one respond when political rhetoric and propaganda justify brutality and potentially genocidal acts? Can one forgive hatred, violence and the entrenched political impulse to annihilate for the purpose of ethnic/religious domination?
As Akin’s questions sear our minds and hearts, the unthinkable occurs when the complex trial bogs down. Against our expectations the defense overrides Katja’s testimony. Because of the neo-Nazi network, conspirators provide alibis for the Möller’s. In an interesting turn of events, André Möller’s father apologizes to Katja for his son’s reprehensible political affiliation and becomes a witness for the prosecution. However, the defense attorney has properly done his job raising doubt with Katja’s testimony. The alibis provided by helpful, neo-Nazi conspirators protect the Möller’s.
With the political network’s assistance, the murderers ably go free and escape to a remote location to hide from the press. And though the prosecuting attorney insists that he will appeal and win, Katja distrusts the state’s ability to overcome the neo-Nazi network’s defenses. Once again she must numb herself to the intense inner pain and repeatedly experience the shock of her husband’s and son’s deaths. Thus, the neo-Nazi network wins. Unrighteousness and the powers of darkness ascend unvanquished.
For the democratic culture, the neo-Nazi message rings loudly and clearly. Mixed marriages between German citizens and “the dark ones” will be used to foment protest actions including extermination.
Through inference, references to Hitler’s murderous tactics during the Holocaust remind us of the power of fear. The filmmaker suggests the “logical” rationale behind the hate groups and their “sterling,”representative couple. However, he also constructs the utterly rational logic behind Katja’s response to the failed justice system. Why must Katja sustain the loss and the misery of injustice delivered by hate and fear? Why must she be punished for her love choice?
Subsequently, Katja seeks a remedy to ameliorate her torment and powerlessness. Rather than walk the long road back to forgiveness of hatred and murder, she reverts to her own inner morality. Whether one takes the high road and calls this revenge or sports the low road and labels her actions vigilantism, she intends to vindicate her husband’s and son’s deaths. They died innocents. Indeed, she will appear guilty, but her message will resound globally.
Katja rejects the notion that forgiveness would only bestow peace upon herself. One may argue that she moves beyond the need for peace, only if one has gone through what she experienced. In her actions we see that she recognizes the recalcitrance of the the neo-Nazis. They intractably believe the rightness of their brutality. How should Katja break through that wall of “rightness?” Bestowing forgiveness appears to be a wasted, useless effort they would scorn. Thus, she confronts and “speaks” to the neo-Nazis’ hate with a message that vibrates throughout their entire network. And her statement conveying fear and bloodshed powerfully cuts through their propaganda and rhetoric. Though she has no rhetoric to match theirs, she answers them in her way, a way to rectify hate.
Significantly, the filmmaker selects his doomed heroine as a wife and mother of the same culture and race that bred the neo-Nazis. If political rhetoric justifies killing, Akin’s heroine answers their bombing with the same intensity using a different rationale, one they cannot measure. For how can their robotic propaganda measure a wife’s love, a mother’s love? The justice Katja’s action symbolizes wipes away all the neo-Nazi’s fearful, hate baiting myths. It answers the rhetoric of genocide with love, the type of love cowards can never comprehend, but can only fear.
To conclude, the themes of In the Fade, may be controversial. Indeed, their profound complexity resonates and should not be considered lightly. Because of the political dimension which implicates the global neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement, Katja’s decision to obtain justice presents another level of violence through a surprising channel. The film’s prescience stuns and suggests. If neo-Nazis attempt to be preeminent, they risk the wrath of women like Katja whose reason to live they have destroyed. It is a fateful reckoning.