A bomb goes off on a crowded Hamburg street. The crime is politically motivated. Two people die.
It’s a standard headline for any given day in the 21st century, but each such event must be an intimate loss for someone. In the potent German film “In the Fade,” that someone is Katja (Diane Kruger), whose husband and son die in the attack.
In some ways, this film follows a conventional outline, divided into three parts: The bombing and its investigation, the trial of the accused, the aftermath.
I found the movie compelling not because of its somewhat familiar plot, but because of the fierceness with which it shows Katja’s point of view. We’re immersed in her perspective, and we’re pulled along into her grief and fury.
There’s plenty of reason for the fury. Katja’s husband was Turkish and a reformed drug dealer who had found a life dedicated to social justice. This means the media and the defense attorneys can point out that he was “no angel,” as though such people might somehow deserve their fate.
The accused killers are white supremacists with vile beliefs. But does that mean they’re guilty?
Director Fatih Akin is skilled at muddying the waters, even if this film is not as complex as his excellent “Head On” and “The Edge of Heaven.” As newly emboldened neo-Nazis rise up in Europe and America, he’s understandably troubled by the issue.
The good thing is that “In the Fade” is not merely a social-issue picture. A lot of that has to do with Akin’s approach (each section of the film seems to have a slightly different style) and the faith he puts in Diane Kruger, who won the best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
Kruger is a big star in Europe who has also played in Hollywood pictures (like the “National Treasure” movies, and “Inglourious Basterds”). There’s always a little German reserve in her performances, which works well with the very emotional material she deals with here.
The first time we see Katja, she is out of focus; in her final scene, as she walks onto an idyllic beach far from Hamburg, she is out of focus again. The movie is about someone being defined by trauma, and finding her focus, however tragically.
“In the Fade” (3½ stars)
A grieving wife and mother (Diane Kruger) must endure the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Hamburg, including the trial of the white supremacists accused of the crime. The plot is conventional, but Kruger and director Fatih Akin draw us powerfully into the heroine’s perspective. In German, with English subtitles.
Rated: R, for violence
Opening Friday: Seattle 10