First things first. Fatih Akin’s “In The Fade” (WB/Magnolia) is not the best foreign language film of 2017. “BPM (Beats Per Minute)”, about the birth of ACT UP in Paris in the late 1980s, deserves that honor. Nevertheless, “In The Fade,” which is racking up awards, including a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice, award, among others, certainly qualifies as one of the best foreign films of the year.
Separated into three sections – “The Family,” “Justice” and “The Sea” – “In The Fade” opens on the wedding day of prison inmate Nuri (Numan Acur) and his tattooed bride Katja (Diane Kruger). Fast forward, reformed drug dealer Nuri works as a tax advisor in Hamburg. He and Katja live in a nice house and have a six-year-old son named Rocco (Rafael Santana).
One afternoon, Katja drops Rocco off at Nuri’s office before meeting her pregnant friend Birgit (Samia Muriel Chancrin) at a Turkish bath for a day of pampering. On the sidewalk outside of the office, the conscientious Katja tells a woman who leaves her bicycle unsecured against a pole to lock it up or it will be stolen. The woman walks away, disregarding the advice.
When Katja returns to Nuri’s office that evening, the street is blocked off by police cars with their lights flashing. There’s been an explosion and she can see that the damage is near Nuri’s office. Crossing the barrier on foot, she is chased by police and forced to the ground.
At the police station, she is told that there were fatalities -- a man and a child. Brought home by the police, Katja gives them Nuri and Rocco’s toothbrushes for DNA samples. She is surrounded by her extended family members when the police return with the DNA results, confirming that the bodies belonged to Rocco and Nuri.
A devastated Katja must deal with the investigation. Because Nuri was Kurdish by birth, although agnostic as Katja insists, questions are raised about him having been “politically active.” Additionally, his background as a convicted drug dealer raises questions about links to the criminal world. Determined to be a nail bomb attack connected to the bicycle left on the sidewalk, the chief investigator wonders if it could have been a revenge killing by the Turkish, Kurdish or Albanian mafia.
Katja, who provides a description of the woman she saw leave the bicycle, has her own theory. She believes it was the new generation of Nazis, who have been targeting immigrants in Germany. She also shares this information with Danilo (Denis Moschitto), her lawyer and friend, who isn’t as sure about that concept as she is.
Katja’s situation is further complicated by the lack of emotional support from her mother, who thinks Nuri was up to no good, or Nuri’s parents who are cruel to her and make unreasonable demands. She begins to numb her pain with cocaine. At the end of her rope, Katja slashes her wrists in the bathtub. As she is about to lose consciousness, she hears an answering machine message left by Danilo, telling her that she was right. It was a married Nazi couple, Edda (Hannah Hilsdorf) and André (Ulrich Brandhoff), who have been taken into custody.
In the middle section, “In The Fade” becomes a courtroom drama. Katja listens stoically to the gory details about the physical injuries that Rocco sustained during the bombing. She is resolute about staying put when the Nazis’ lawyer tries to have her removed from the courtroom as a prejudiced witness. Therefore, it’s not all that surprising when she does eventually flip out in the courtroom, attempting to assault Edda. In spite of all the evidence pointing to the guilt of the pair, they are acquitted.
In the third and final section, “The Sea”, In The Fade shifts gears and becomes a story of retribution. Without giving away too much, Katja tracks down Edda and André and devises a revenge plot. The last few minutes are alternately captivating and shocking. “In The Fade” is undeniably topical in light of the current refugee crisis and changing attitudes towards immigration. The movie is especially notable for Kruger’s portrayal of Katja. It ranks as the most spellbinding performance of her career. Rating: B+