Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:43 am 
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Rage against racists

There is reason to watch In the Fade (original German title Aus dem Nichts, "From Nothing"), despite its flaws. Fatih Akin, the director, has in the past vividly depicted the experience of growing up Turkish in Germany. He continues that story here, but poignantly shifts perspective to a German woman, Katja ┼×ekerci (Diane Kruger), widowed when her Turkish husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), and their little son, Rocco (Rafael Santana) are killed by a nail bomb set by neo-Nazis. When the perpetrators get off in a trial, Katja exacts violent and self-destructive revenge, which takes the movie in a crude, genre direction that may objectify nicely the director's own intense anger, but has led critics to dismiss the whole effort. But despite this In the Fade has much of the richness and complexity - as well as energetic unruliness - of Akin's most successful films, Head-On, The Edge of Heaven and Soul Kitchen; besides which Diane Kruger, in her first all-German language role, is so good, so intense yet so balanced, her performance won the Best Actress award at Cannes this year.

This isn't an easy watch. The immediate aftermath of the tragedy shows Karja raked over the coals by both her parents and her late husband's (who are Kurds, by the way): both sides opposed the marriage. It then turns into a prolonged courtroom drama, including smug lawyers for the accused neo-Nazi couple who against all reason keep seeming to maintain the upper hand as the proceedings drag on from day to day. Katja insists on attending but at the outset must sit through a coroner's excruciating description of her 5-year-old boy's hideous death from the bomb that causes her to attack the accused woman in the courtroom.

Katja met Nuri buying hashish from him when she was a student (and dropped out of college) and she married him when he was in jail. He reformed thereafter and became an accountant, but the police thought he was still a criminal and the killing a mafia hit. Akin tortures us with the trial and its poor outcome. The defense, led by the overbearing, scary-looking Haberbeck (Johannes Krisch), stirs up such suspicions and makes it seem as if Katja, not his clients, are on trial. Physical evidence clearly incriminates the accused couple, and even the man's father believes him guilty. But Danilo (Denis Moschitto), Katja's lawyer, who was Nuri's friend, seems overconfident, and may by incompetent: he seems reactive to Haberbeck when he should be proactive.

The third, final segment, which "takes the film into genre territory," doesn't become cheap or simplistic. Katja follows the freed couple who go on a vacation in Greece. It's obvious her revenge plan wavors, but she hides from Danilo that she's away, and by not being in Germany she makes it impossible for him to file for an appeal that might very well have put the perpetrators away for life. This section, too, is excruciating and so, not crudely satisfying, not quite "genre" after all. Fatih Akin's films have always been unruly, and his first protagonists were suicidal. But this one stands apart for the clenched intensity of its anger and equally for the beauty of Diane Kruger's performance, which may be her career best.

In the Fade/Aus dem Nichts, 106 mins., debuted at Cannes 26 May 2017; shown in two dozen other international festivals including Moscow, Toronto, Vancouver and Mill Valley. US theatrical release by Magnolia begins 27 Dec. 2017 (NYC at IFC Center, Landmark at 57 West); 12 Jan. in San Francisco.

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