In the Fade is unquestionably Diane Kruger’s film. As Katja Sekerci, she is more than the centre of the story: she is the story. We see everything through her eyes – witnessing only what she does. The prologue shows her wedding to Nuri (Numan Acar), newly released from prison after serving a sentence for dealing drugs, and then we move on to the present day: we’re in Hamburg, Germany; Nuri is a reformed character, working as a travel agent and tax advisor for fellow Turkish immigrants. They have a son, Rocco (Rafael Santana); they clearly love him very much. Katja leaves Rocco with Nuri in his office and heads off to spend the afternoon in a spa with her friend, Birgit (Samia Muriel Chancrin). When she returns, it’s to utter devastation: Nuri and Rocco have been killed in a terrorist attack, the work of neo-Nazis. Katja’s world shrinks to an open wound. There’s nothing else for her to do but fight for justice for her family.
It’s a bravura performance from Kruger, who rightly won the best actress award at Cannes last year: she’s in every scene, treading the line between bold and nuanced with absolute élan. Her pain is palpable, and her desire for revenge is human-sized; I like that she doesn’t become a super-vigilante, that her plans are fallible and credible. The second act (the courtroom drama) is cleverly drawn, the niceties of the justice system shown to be as necessary as they are flawed. If there is reasonable doubt, then there shouldn’t be a conviction – this has to hold true. Equally, the desire for vengeance is a fact of life; of course Katja can’t accept a verdict that allows the guilty to go free.
This is a difficult film to watch, but well worth the effort; it’s painful, but it’s got real heart. I like the way that writer/director Fatih Akin neither lionises nor demonises the Turkish community; similarly the police, the courts, the family. Katja and Nuri are not angels, but they don’t have to be. They have a right to justice too.