Director: Faith Akin Starring: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Samia Chancrin Running Time: 106 minutes
In The Fade has a lot to offer its audience: a strong central performance from Diane Kruger, a moving story and compelling characters. Yet the film still lacks the power to stay with you once the credits roll. While easy to chew on throughout its reasonable runtime, director Faith Akin’s recent feature leaves you craving something a little more substantial.
The film, which won best foreign language feature at this year’s Golden Globes, tells the story of Katja (Diane Kruger), a German woman confronted with the tragic death of her husband and son following a terrorist attack. When suspects are discovered and brought to court, Katja battles with her need to exact revenge on the people who took her world from her. Should she leave the judicial system to their ways? Or, should she take matters into her own hands?
Director Faith Akin’s oeuvre has always included strong, complex and intriguing characters, and In The Fade is no different – no character is two-dimensional or existing just to serve the story. Instead, Akin’s work on individual backstories for all his characters is abundantly clear throughout the movie. The people Katja finds around her – lawyers, friends, parents – are all fully-developed and well constructed characters with plenty more to say than the script let them. As such, it is incredibly easy to step into their world and care for the characters struggling through this horrendous ordeal. As such, the film achieves a certain level of authenticity as the audience find themselves caring deeply for those on screen.
Kruger’s performance, which won her a Best Actress award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, is nothing short of spectacular. In what is a complex role, Kruger manages to say more about Katja and her harrowing journey through a broken, defeated gaze than a thousand lines of dialogue ever could. A once spirited person whose entire life revolved around her family, Katja confronts the feelings of rage, guilt, self-pity and unrelenting sadness that have engulfed her way of life. Kruger’s stunning performance captures all these emotions (and then some) and suggests a brightness within her character that has been quenched in a truly moving rendition of Katja. Even at the film’s worst moments, Kruger’s presence alone elevates those scenes to another level, proving, once again, her worth as a wonderfully talented actor in international cinema.
And yet, despite all the great things In The Fade has going for it, something about the film as a whole feels lacking, perhaps due in large part to the film’s structure. Katja’s story is told in three acts, (1) ‘The Family’, (2) ‘The Justice’ and (3) ‘The Sea’. While the same story is told and developed across all three, the film shifts between tones and settings as it moves from act to act. Ultimately, the film’s flow feels uneven and peculiar, while it’s tone shifts dramatically between that of a courtroom drama, a revenge thriller and a performance driven drama. The film could have, perhaps, benefitted from a more consistent tone from start to finish. Instead, the three individual acts feel out of place next to each other, as if the characters were jumping onto different film sets throughout production.
While Akin’s talents (and he is a talented filmmaker) are felt in the story and on the script, In The Fade’s direction feels uninspired and hugely disappointing. Understandably, Akin focuses his camera on Kruger’s performance and and allows her to command every scene she occupies, yet the film begs for a distinct visual style to tie all three acts together. Instead, the direction falls under structural issues, feeling and looking like vastly different films from one act to the next.
Considering the type of filmmaker Akin can be, this is very disappointing. However, Kruger’s remarkable performance and the strong characters on screen are enough to keep you caring through the entire film.
In simple terms, In The Fade is quite good, but it really could have been great.(3 / 5)