Thursday, October 26, 2017

IFFBoston 2017.182: In the Fade

I say it every year, but more festivals should do mini-festivals six months after the main event, just to help folks catch up on what's out there that may slip through the cracks otherwise. I haven't been able to get to as much of this year's Fall Focus as I'd like - Sunday was busy and Tuesday had me at work late enough to only make the late show, but that's okay - I've seen Blade of the Immortal and both Lady Bird and Last Flag Flying are a month at most from playing multiplexes.

I liked the heck out of this one, though. It's an impressive-as-heck bit of work from Diane Kruger, whom I am probably severely under-rating when I say that she often came across as an appealing blonde who could often be exchanged with another without it making a whole lot of difference, and I pretty much completely lost track of her between National Treasure and The Bridge. Part of that was because she spends a lot of time doing French work, but I actually felt kind of surprised to see she'd been in Inglorious Basterds. I'm pretty sure I won't be overlooking her again after this.

Also: I don't usually correct the Letterboxd entries I make on my way home from a movie, but my initial version referred to "Faith Aiken" as "she", as opposed to male director Fatih Akin. Oops.

Aus dem Nichts (In the Fade)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 October 2017 in the Brattle Theatre (Independent Film Festival Boston Fall Focus 2017, DCP)

The last act of In the Fade doesn't seem like it should be especially nerve-wracking - the film has rearranged itself to more closely resemble a thriller, certainly, and the condensed form doesn't hurt, although that may not generate tension on its own. But despite that, it felt like the caffeine from a soda I drank at work hours earlier was just hitting me - all the meticulous work Faith Akin and his collaborators put into the film was having a cumulative effect, and getting every little thing right is the way a good movie becomes a great one and a movie that never seemed to be about creating excitement, per se, has one on pins and needles by the end.

It opens with a flashback to prison, where jovial immigrant Nuri Sekreci (Numan Acar) is about to marry Katja Jenssen (Diane Kruger); cut to a few years later, and Katja is picking their 6-year-old son Rocco up from school and dropping him off to the small office where Nuri runs a small business that serves Hamburg's Turkish community in a number of ways so he can watch the boy while Katja has a spa day with her pregnant sister Birgit (Samia Muriel Chancrin). She returns to a horrific scene, and while the police seem eager to focus on Nuri's past as a drug dealer or other immigrant communities, Katja is certain that the perpetrators are homegrown neo-Nazis.

Despite that keyed-up reaction as the film started toward its finish, this isn't a thriller, not really. The first chunk of the movie is an unvarnished look at loss and pain, although it's got a few interesting tricks to play along the way. Pay close attention, for instance, to how Akin makes it easy for even an open-minded viewer to notice Nuri's friends or the lady in a headscarf as Katja leaves the office even though she actually has a quick, important conversation with someone she will soon finger for the crime - it's a moment that could prod viewers to recognize their own prejudices, but the manipulation involved is just clear enough that it can come across as fair rather than accusatory. Once the film is firmly into the aftermath, there's similar attention to detail that links what comes before or after; a shot will linger on the toys that have been left lying around the Sekrecis' house, sure, but the characters are never just sitting, staring into a void; they're doing something and interacting, and while there will be a thread between those little activities and what happens later, it's seldom set-up for an "aha!" moment as opposed to a bit of cohesion that holds the movie together. It's not too subtle to be consciously seen, but it is the sort of thing a person notes and accepts without surprise because it fits with what one has seen in limited previous dealings with these people.

Full review on EFC.

No comments: