Ac­tions louder than words in Kruger’s haunt­ing por­trait of grief

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

ELIS­A­BETH Kubler Ross iden­ti­fied five stages of grief. Diane Kruger dis­cov­ers a cou­ple more in this com­pelling drama, for which she won Best Ac­tress at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

The Ger­man-Amer­i­can star (Troy, Inglourious Basterds) digs deep for what is, sur­pris­ingly, her first Ger­man­lan­guage role as a woman gut­ted by the mur­der of her hus­band and six-year-old son.

While the di­a­logue is spar­ing, Kruger’s var­i­ously numb, haunted, lost, an­gry and bit­ter body lan­guage speaks vol­umes. Ac­cep­tance just isn’t part of Katja’s emo­tional reper­toire.

In the film’s open­ing se­quence, the un­der­nour­ished wild child mar­ries her boyfriend (Nu­man Acar) — a hand­some Turk in a white suit and di­shev­elled man bun — in a small but eu­phoric prison cer­e­mony.

The story then flashes for­ward. An older, more re­spon­si­ble Katja crosses the road with her six-year-old son Rocco (Rafael San­tana).

They are on their way to her hus­band’s of­fice. A “model of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion”, as his lawyer refers to him, Nuri com­pleted a busi­ness de­gree while in jail.

He is now a self­em­ployed ac­coun­tant and trans­la­tor (of­ten for fel­low in­mates).

Af­ter spend­ing the af­ter­noon with a friend, Katja re­turns to pick up her fam­ily. The en­tire street is cor­doned off. A bomb has ex­ploded out­side Nuri’s of­fice. Two charred, dis­mem­bered bod­ies have been re­cov­ered. It will take time to con­firm it’s her hus­band and son.

For the next hour-and-ahalf, In The Fade’s writer/ di­rec­tor, Fatih Akin, fo­cuses al­most en­tirely on Katja and her painful strug­gle to come to terms with what has hap­pened (the oc­ca­sional flash­back via fam­ily videos pro­vid­ing some so­lace — for movie­go­ers as well as the char­ac­ter).

Her ini­tial faith in the author­i­ties sours when the po­lice start in­ves­ti­gat­ing Nuri him­self, sus­pect­ing an un­der­world vendetta or ter­ror­ist links.

She has all-but given up hope when two neo-Nazis are sud­denly ar­rested for the crime. The court case opens up a whole new world of sor­row.

In the end, Katja comes to the pro­foundly lonely re­al­i­sa­tion that no one else can help her re­solve her terrible loss.

Part re­venge thriller, part po­lice pro­ce­dural, part med­i­ta­tion on grief, In The Fade sus­tains the ten­sion through­out.

A good deal of the credit must go to Kruger’s per­for­mance, but Akin’s as­sured di­rec­tion should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. His skill at keep­ing his au­di­ence slightly off bal­ance serves the story well.

As a movie­goer, you are never en­tirely sure where In The Fade is headed. But when it gets there, the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion some­how feels right.

OPENS THURS­DAY

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