Neo-Nazis, corruption, family drama and revenge… A spectrum of societal issues is addressed in Fatih Akin’s latest film In the Fade (2017, Aus dem Nichts). The plot follows the plight of a German mother, Katja, whose son and Turkish husband are murdered in a Neo-Nazi bombing in Hamburg. What makes the film so thrilling is its unconventional combination of genres: from courtroom drama to a gripping tale of revenge. The hard-hitting emotions and aesthetically striking cinematography work together to create a production worthy of its recently-granted accolade of Best Foreign Language film at the 2018 Golden Globes.
The director’s choice of topic – right-wing hate crime – is one that will resonate with audiences across the world. As a German of Turkish descent, Akin has a particular affinity with the issue. In interviews he has repeatedly expressed his anger towards the under-punishment of Neo-Nazis in Germany following brutal attacks against non-white citizens. ‘I wanna strike back somehow’ the director says emphatically. And with his new film he does exactly that.
Most notably, Akin seeks to denounce the criminalisation of victims and witnesses during the NSU Trial against terror organisation National Socialist Underground. The critique in In the Fade lies in the fact that protagonist Katja, having witnessed a potential suspect before the Hamburg bombing took place, is wrongfully construed as a deceitful and deranged drug addict by the Defence. Her testimony is thus delegitimised.
Diane Krüger’s enactment of Katja’s frustration is formidable, providing for two unforgettably shocking scenes. The first of which is Katja’s hysterical lashing out at the two suspects after discovering the full brutality of her family’s suffering. The second scene is equally as shocking: faced with scepticism in court, Katja loses hope of achieving justice and sinks downwards into a bath of her own spilled blood.
Nevertheless, Akin goes much further than drama and bloodshed. In my opinion, this is what distinguishes his work from other thrill-seeking Hollywood productions. The story of In the Fade unfolds unusually slowly, allowing for a heightened focus on technique. During and after the court case, the camera concentrates on the mourning former mother and wife as she suffers in silence, estranged from her own family and friends.
The storyline following the court’s unfavourable verdict may lack its earlier dramatic tension, yet Akin focuses instead on heightening our identification with Katja’s existential crisis as she journeys to Greece and contemplates revenge. Our gaze lingers on the landscape, little dialogue is to be heard, and we find ourselves wondering how we would react in Katja’s situation. Would we seek out those who murdered our own family in the hope of justice being served?
All elements considered, Akin has crafted a striking film whose plotline, cinematography and acting are so astute that his message can resonate with everyone. As the director himself has said, ‘It’s not about outsiders in the society. It’s about all of us’. We all have family members whom we love, and we would all want justice to be served for them. By focusing on Katja’s perspective, In the Fade goes a step further in doing justice (albeit cinematographically) for the innocent victims of hate crime – both in Germany and beyond.
Written by Lucy Woods