Nuri Sekerci (Nurman Acar) is happy. He is marrying the love of his life, Katja (Diane Kruger). Such is their love and devotion to one another that, rather than buy wedding bands, they have them tattooed on their wedding fingers. The marriage takes place in prison as Nuri is serving a sentence for drug dealing.
Some years later, Nuri’s life is very different. A Turkish national, he helps other Turkish nationals to settle in Germany and also helps ex-cons to reform. They have a son, Rocco (Rafael Santana), who Katja brings to Nuri’s office, as she is going to visit her pregnant friend Brigit (Samia Chancrin) and needs to borrow the car.
Katja leaves Rocco with Nuri as she goes to see Brigit. As she leaves the office, she notices a young woman leaving a new bicycle outside of the office. She calls to her, telling her that she should lock the bike up as someone could steal it. The girl says she will be right back.
Katja spends the afternoon with Brigit. When she returns, the roads around the office are cordoned off. There has been an explosion. Two people are dead and many have been injured.
Katja fights past the cordon, running towards the office. She is restrained by several police officers. Two people are dead, but the bodies are so badly destroyed that they will need DNA to test them. Katja goes to see if her family is amongst the survivors. They are not. The police take her home to get some DNA of Nuri and Rocco.
The tests come back positive; her husband and child died in the explosion. Chief Inspector Reetz (Henning Peker) leads the investigation into their deaths. He wants to establish if her husband had any enemies. No, none. Did she notice anything? No. Wait, there was a woman with a bike. It was new and had a large carrier attached to it.
Katja is bereft. Brigit stays with her as she grieves. The next morning, reports of the bombing are in the news. Nuri is portrayed as a convicted drug dealer. A photofit of the woman Katja described is with the report. Katja’s mother, Annemarie (Karin Neuhäuser), intimates that Nuri might have been mixed up with something that Katja did not know about. Katja gives the notion of short shrift.
Katja goes to see her friend and lawyer, Danilo Fava (Denis Moschitto). Fava was a close friend of Nuri. She asks him if Nuri was involved in any of his old endeavours, Fava assures her he was not. She asks if they know who did it.
He tells her that they are looking at possible Eastern European connections. Katja does not think that is right. The girl who left the bike was German. The thought suddenly occurs to her that it was neo-Nazis.
Fava gives her a few drugs that he took off of clients. The next day, Nuri’s parents tell her they want to take his remains and that of their grandson’s back to Turkey, having decided to return to Turkey. Katja leaves the room. She goes and takes a line of cocaine. When she returns, she tells them no.
At the funeral, Nuri’s parents blame her for Rocco’s death. Back home, the police gain a warrant to search the house. They find the small amount of drugs Katja got from Fava. The inspector tells her that it is unlikely that she will be prosecuted for such a small amount of drugs. She tells the inspector that the Nazis did the bombing. Why? Because her husband was Turkish.
Katja feels overwhelmed with the police looking at her husband’s criminal past as a motive for his death. Back home, her mother intimates that Nuri corrupted her. Before Katja can react, Michi (Uwe Rohde), her mother’s boyfriend, tells her to pack. They are leaving.
Katja goes to the site of the bombing. She returns home, consumed by her depression. Brigit, who had been staying with her, leaves at Katja’s request. Katja continues to grieve, sleeping in Rocco’s bed, ignoring all contact. She slits her wrist in the bath, waiting to die. Fava calls. She was right, it was a neo-Nazi attack, and they have made an arrest.
The girl she saw, Edda Moller (Hanna Hilsdorf), and her husband André (Ulrich Brandhoff), stands accused of the bombing. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence against them and even André’s father, Jurgen (Ulrich Tukur), testifies to the fact that his son embraced neo-Nazi teachings.
The Moller’s defence lawyer, Haberbeck (Johannes Krisch), proves to be very effective, bringing into question not only Katja’s character but also the evidence in regard to his clients. They even have an alibi for when Katja says she saw Edda.
Edda says she was in Greece. The court acquits the couple, saying that though they do not necessarily believe the Moller’s to be innocent, the evidence presented was not conclusive enough to eradicate reasonable doubt.
Some time has passed. Katja goes to Greece looking for Nikolaos Makris (Yannis Economides), the man who provided an alibi for Edda. She finds him but alerts him to her presence by asking for the Moller’s. He sees her but she escapes. By chance, she sees his car passing after she stops to buy cigarettes. She follows him to the beach. He meets the Moller’s. They are living in a caravan on the beach.
He tells them about Katja. Katja, furnished with the knowledge of their location, builds a bomb. She goes to the caravan and places it under the caravan. She waits, the couple having gone for a run.
As she waits, she has second thoughts and goes and retrieves the bomb. She had been ignoring Fava’s calls, her mindset on a particular course of action.
She speaks to Fava. He tells her he is preparing an appeal and that she should come to see him tomorrow. She says she will see him in the morning. She returns to the beach the next morning. The Moller’s have returned from another run. She walks up to the caravan; the bomb is strapped to her. She opens the caravan, goes inside and detonates the bomb. The end.
In The Fade, or, to give it its original German title, Aus dem Nichts, is a sobering, emotional drama written and directed by Fatih Akin. A straightforward story of a heinous crime and its impact on various parties, the film is driven by Kruger’s central performance.
In truth, the story is more about grief than anything else. Though the story of neo-Nazi sympathisers destroying a family simply due to their origin is a powerful and emotive one, it is Kruger’s Katja who draws sympathy, even as it becomes increasingly evident that there can only be one resolution.
A slow burner of a film, In The Fade’s pacing, will not suit everyone. At one hundred and five minutes long, the first hour is raw emotional viewing as Katja struggles to deal with the loss of her family. Strangely, for a film incorrectly billed as a revenge thriller, In The Fade is more an observation of helplessness within a frame of civil society.
Katja’s mourning and pain are amplified by the legal systems inability to mete out any sort of justice. With this being a German film, the Hollywood ending, where she perhaps shoots all who are “deserving” in the face or throws them off of a building or some such movie-esque fitting comeuppance, never materialises.
Katja almost gives us the ending we want but decides against it. She is not a cold-blooded murderer. The final resolution was the only way for her. In The Fade is a compelling watch mostly for Kruger’s strong central performance. Though everybody else is good, it is Kruger’s film and, aside from the two lawyers, nobody else’s character is explored much beyond the surface.
In The Fade is obviously a film that was personal to Akin, with title cards at the end displaying how many neo-Nazi attacks have happened in Germany in the past year. It is a good film, but obviously, due to its subject matter, not an overly enjoyable one.