“In the Fade” (“Aus dem Nichts”)

 

                We Americans aren’t the only ones with alt-right groups.  We aren’t the only ones with immigrant populations that are perceived as threats to a former hegemony.  We aren’t the only ones with an embarrassing history of racism, and systematic oppression of minority groups.  We aren’t the only ones who wonder if we can ever learn to just get along.

                Katja Sekerci (Diane Kruger) is a German Mom with a Kurdish husband, Nuri, and together they have a son, Rocci.  Nuri is a travel agent and translator, mostly helping countrymen with relatives still in Turkey.  His little storefront is in the “Turkish” section of Munich, where Katja has just dropped off their little boy, on the way to a “spa day” with her (pregnant) best friend.  On the way to her car, she happens to notice a young woman parking a new bike by the curb without locking it, and she takes a moment to speak to the stranger, who turns to look at her, but ignores her advice and walks hurriedly away.

                When Katja returns to the neighborhood that evening, she notices the emergency vehicles, but doesn’t start becoming alarmed until they tell her the area’s been cordoned off.  Then she hears there was an explosion.  She frantically runs through the police barricades, and gets just far enough to fear the worst.

                What follows is everyone’s horific nightmare: both her husband and her son were killed.  But apparently no one else was injured, which makes the police think that her husband must have been the target.  Katja is so devastated that she accepts some “recreational drugs” from her lawyer-friend (he says they were gifts from clients).  Just to deal with the emotional pain.  But she has obviously used before.  In fact, we later find out this is how she met her husband:  she bought grass from him at the University.  Later, we learn that he was imprisoned for drug dealing, and of course the police first suspect a drug deal gone sour.  Until the evidence suggests otherwise.

                Remember the young woman who left the bike at the curb?  Was that a bomb she left with her bicycle?  She and her husband go on trial, and Katja is convinced they are guilty, but the court says there’s not enough evidence.

                Now Katja is really in a dark place.  Family’s not much help; his leaves and hers blames his.  Her best friend has just had a baby, and Katja can hardly stand being around such unfettered happiness.  She’s lost and alone.  On a whim, she decides to go to the same Greek seaside villa that the bombers claim to have been at the critical moment (collaborated by a neo-Nazi friend).  There, she confronts her darkest impulses.

                No, the neo-Nazis aren’t yet prepared to take over Germany, as they did in the 1930’s.  But xenophobia lives in every era.  And sadly, we aren’t the only ones.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association.