At risk of getting nostalgic, remember when it was a given that Nazis were bad people who did bad things? The continued normalization of white supremacists is not the primary theme of Fatih Akin’s In the Fade — though f’reals, New York Times, cut it out! — but it looms heavily over this Hamburg-set film. After her immigrant husband Nuri (Numan Acar) and their son Rocco (Rafael Santana) are killed in a bombing, what compounds the extreme grief of Katja (Diane Kruger) is how the police are more interested in Nuri’s past as a weed dealer. The fact that, in the depths of her grieving, Katja isn’t afraid to snort the occasional rail or do a bit of freebasing doesn’t help her case much, either.
In the Fade has a three-act structure delineated by the title cards “The Family,” “Justice,” and “The Sea,” and the most compelling is the second-act trial of the Nazis. It’s set in a downright Kubrickian courtroom whose sterile architecture Akin’s camera absolutely loves, and which also reflects the monolithic impersonality of the results of the trial. But In the Fade lives and dies by Kruger’s ferocious, fearless performance of a woman driven out of the light by the darkness of others. And her descent could happen to any of us.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.