Fatih Akin's film "In the Fade"

Back in the saddle

In his latest film, "In the Fade", Fatih Akin puts his leading lady through hell. The acclaimed director draws on the series of murders committed by the NSU terror cell in Germany to produce some of his best work to date. By Jochen Kurten

Emotional and impactful, quickly filmed and produced, it's a return to Fatih Akin at his finest. To best understand "In the Fade", you have to turn a blind eye to the Hamburg-based filmmaker's last production. "The Cut" was the most elaborate movie the director had made until then, yet it flopped miserably after being presented at the Venice Film Festival in September 2014.

"The Cut" took up the subject of the Armenian genocide, a subject at the heart of difficult diplomacy and political accusations between Turkey and Germany. Far-reaching in its narrative, it was a detailed historical epic and took years to produce. And one with a message. That wasn't what Akin was known for, however. The director famous for his humorous, highly-dramatic neighbourhood stories had tried to one-up himself with the dramatic production.

While writing the screenplay for what would become "In the Fade", Akin told an interviewer from the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he was "in a very fatalistic phase." "I worked for a ridiculously long time on 'The Cut', nearly five years. And I would say that I frittered away some of that time." The screenplay, production and filming had simply taken too much time for him to puzzle out all the details of the feature. "If you spend too much time on those details, you forget a bit about the drama that you want to tell, the inner life of the main character."

"Tschick" paved the way

By contrast, "In the Fade" was Akin's fastest-made movie. It was a trick he learned during the filming of "Tschick." The 2016 release landed unexpectedly in Akin's lap after the original director had left the production.

The one-two punch of having a fast production time on "Tschick" after the drawn-out and frustrating process of "The Cut" served as important inspiration for the director's approach to "In the Fade." Akin specialises in telling the "little" stories of simple people, filled with drama and emotion. He is not a director of epic cinema.

"In the Fade" is once again Akin at his finest, a film bursting at the seams with emotion – reminiscent of his 2004 hit "Head-On," which pulled the Berlinale jury and viewing public out of its seats.

Of course there is another reason why "In the Fade" works so well: Akin's rage and consternation at the murders committed by the NSU and above all, the ways the police and prosecutors handled the politically motivated hate crimes, turning the victims into suspects in early stages of the investigation.

Akin: ″It could just as well have been me″

Akin reveals that he considered it scandalous "that the investigators presumed that the victims and their families somehow got wrapped up in some mess – simply because of their ethnic heritage." For the director, it became personal. "As someone with a foreign background, with Turkish roots, I had the feeling that this impacts me personally. It could just as well have been me."

What the director finally came up with was far more than just a courtroom drama. The film consists of three parts. First, viewers see the bombing in which the husband and son of actress Diane Kruger are killed. That's followed by a courtroom drama and in the closing act, the film picks up the pace and becomes something of a thriller.

For her spirited performance as the woman whose life has been turned upside down by the murder of her husband and child, Diane Kruger took home the Cannes Award for Best Actress.

In that respect, it could be viewed as something of a lucky break for the German-born actress as well. Widely considered a lightweight, Kruger had never had a part in a German film. But her passionate appearance in "In the Fade" won over everyone – including the very satisfied director.

Jochen Kurten

© Deutsche Welle 2017

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