In the Fade

The stars aligned the night I went to see this movie yesterday evening. It was playing at my favorite theatre — the Angelika Film Center — where I know I can relax in seats that recline and enjoy a glass of wine.

I had just heard that the singer of The Temptations had died. In this movie, they play The Temptations “My Girl” during a wedding scene.

I had earlier read a Facebook post from one of my best friends, who lost his daughter recently. He wrote about watching videos of her and how that made him feel so much happier. This movie had a similar scene.

I saw on the news, the sentencing of that doctor that worked with the Olympic gymnasts. A father of three that were abused, ran towards the guy in court and was tackled by police. This movie had a similar scene.

Yet even if this movie didn’t have things I had witnessed earlier in the day, I would’ve loved it.

The film deservedly won a Golden Globe, and Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds, National Treasure, Troy) won “best actress” at Cannes for her performance. And just as I said about Sally Hawkins in her two terrific performances last year (The Shape of Water, Maudie) — Kruger could express so much with just a facial expression.

The story takes place in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district, where Katja Sekerci (Kruger) is living a happy life with husband Nuri (Numan Acar), who we see in the opening sequence, she marries while he’s in prison. They have an adorable son, a nice house, and life is going well until a bomb explodes outside his office, killing him.

Nuri is Turkish, and this district is a bit progressive, but also has a few racist Germans upset with how things are going. The investigators aren’t sure which direction to go, since Nuri had been a drug dealer, and they seem to have no leads.

I won’t delve into much more of the plot, as I’ve already seen many other critics give things away in how they described the events or merely the premise of the movie.

What I found so fascinating is how there were a few things this movie did that I’ve seen in other movies, done better here. That could be a newscaster that wants to call the victim a “convicted drug dealer” or a mother-in-law saying something rude. A few times, I felt a bit more subtly could’ve been used, but in so many other times, it was. And it made the scenes more powerful. It could be the way Katja looks at her best friend, and you see the sadness in her eyes.

Obviously, the news has recently had attacks in Berlin regarding Islamic terrorism, and many will say that makes this a timely story. I think it would’ve been just as powerful a film 20 years ago.

There was a scene where family and friends find out sad news — and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. Other times, Katja is staring out a window as rain pours down and we hear it on the windows, and it breaks your heart. A friend I brought with me to the movie (who also loved it) commented, “I like that they didn’t try to play all this music to make us sad. Just hearing the rain, and her crying, made it all so raw.”

There are a few courtroom scenes that have the standard stuff we’ve seen in many films (most recently another foreign film — The Insult). Yet even those seemed to captivate me more than usual.

Austrian stage and screen actor Johannes Krisch plays a defense lawyer you want to strangle.

German/Italian actor Denis Moschitto plays a lawyer you want to hug.

Greek filmmaker Yannis Economides has a small role that is rather menacing.

I was pleasantly surprised that Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme provided an incredible score. The film also had some great songs from Queens of the Stone Age, Faith No More, and the underrated Australian singer Courtney Barnett.

Writer/director Fatih Akin has given us Head-on, The Edge of Heaven, Goodbye Berlin, The Cut, and my favorite of his films, Soul Kitchen. It’s now In the Fade. In this movie, we experience grieving like you rarely do on screen, and you go through a rollercoaster of emotions and anxiety while watching it.

This gets 4 stars out of 5.