IN THE FADE/ AUS DEM NICHTS, Germany, 2017. Starring Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Numan Acar, Samir Muriel Chancrin, Johannes Krisch, Ulrich Tukur, Ulrich Brandhoff, Hanna Hilsdorf. Directed by Fatih Akin. 106 minutes. Rated MA (Strong themes and coarse language)
This is very much a film of contemporary times in Europe. It deals with issues of refugees and migrants from middle Eastern countries. It deals with hate crimes from groups of neo-Nazi sympathisers.
The writer-director himself, Fatih Akin, was born in Germany but has a Turkish background. This is very important for his films for the last 15 years, especially his award-winning (including Ecumenical Award in Cannes 2007), The Edge of Heaven.
The film opens in a prison, a tall, long-haired, prisoner is being cheered by all the men standing outside their cells. He is being freed, obviously having become a celebrity inside. On leaving, he is met by young woman and the next scene is of their being married. Already, the audience is being challenged in their attitudes towards the man, his appearance and behaviour, the marriage.
But, the film goes forward six years and everything is respectable. Nuri runs a business, he and his wife, Katia, have a small son. The boy is a perky young fellow, sparring with his mother, enjoying the company of his father. Katia leaves her boy with her husband as she goes with a friend for an afternoon at the sauna, returning to pick them up only to find that a bomb has exploded outside the office and husband and son are dead.
The film is divided into three sections. The first is called The Family, obvious enough. This is a couple who has made good, bringing up their son will, only for devastation. Katia’s mother, a rather unsympathetically aggressive woman, has been critical of her daughter’s marriage. Katia later reveals to the police that the two met when she bought marijuana from as a dealer when she was at college. Nuri’s parents, upset, intend to return to Turkey and want to take their son’s body. Katia refuses.
The next section is called Justice. Most of the takes place in the courtroom. Katia had been able to give testimony about a young woman with a bicycle whom she encountered just after she left her son at the office. The young woman and her husband are arrested, rabid racists and Neo-Nazis. Katia is defended by a good friend who expects the obvious justice to be done. On the other hand, there is a very skilful defence lawyer, visualised as rather sinister and sounding sinister in his cross-examinations as well as his defence of the accused.
There are various legal complications in the hearings. Katja at one moment loses it and attacks the accused. When the verdict comes in, it is unexpected.
The third section of the film is called The Sea. One of the witnesses called to support the accused couple is a Greek who lies about his not being in Germany at the time of the attack. Katia has tracked him down, goes to visit his house by the sea in Greece, discovers that the two accused have come by caravan and are enjoying a holiday.
So, here comes the moral dilemma. Justice has not been done or seen to be done. Does Katia have the right to execute justice on the couple? Does she let hatred and anger consume her and ruin her life? In this last part of the film, the audience is put on the spot, morally. Are the couple so loathsome that they deserved to die? Has Katia the right to execute justice? (Even her going to a store and buying the ingredients for a nail bomb similar to what the couple and used for their sabotage?)
The questions are asked – but answered, ultimately, in a way that is comprehensible but has not necessarily been anticipated.
The German Academy award nominee for 2017, with Diane Kruger winning the Best Actress award at Cannes 2017.
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Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.