Turkish moviemaker Fatih Akin, who lives in Germany, was back at the Cannes Film Festival with his latest outing, In the Fade. His last Croisette visit was as long ago as 2007, when he brought his The Edge of Heaven to clinch the best screenplay award. A story about loneliness, desperation and a sense of hope and hopelessness, The Edge Of Heaven was a great hit in Cannes.
But unfortunately, not In the Fade. Which seems to have divided opinion. An Indian journalist, revered and reviled for his right-wing extremism, saw Akin’s work as one propagating and promoting suicide bombing. This writer did not. Nor did a French lady, who works in one of the country’s government departments. She felt that it was “a beautiful story of a German mother’s angst at having lost her six-year-old son and her Turkish husband in a Neo-Nazi attack”.
In Germany and in some other places in Europe, radical Nazi tendencies are on the rise. There was a time when one saw posters proclaiming this political ideology even in Cannes - and cities like Paris.
So, Akin’s movie - if at all it has to be read as a political comment - must be viewed as one that underlines the futility of killing. Revolving around the actual events involving the neo-Nazi National Social Underground (NSU) - which has been targeting immigrants, especially Muslims, In the Fade draws us into a compelling, deeply disturbing drama about a mother (played with a touch of brilliance by Diane Krugger) -- who fails to get justice in Germany’s legal system when her little son and husband of Turkish origin are killed in a blast set off by a bomb outside his shop. The culprits are a young German couple. And after the courts falter and sets the couple free, the mother seeks revenge, planting a bomb under a caravan that the two use. She also kills herself.
Akin, whose parents came to Hamburg in the 1960s, says he is very angry with that notorious group which perpetrated a series of murders in Germany between 2000 and 2007. He told the media here the other day: “The NSU scandals were huge in Germany in 2011. I was very angry when I heard what happened and that anger drove me to write this. As I started writing, other layers and characters were created to make the story believable. So it’s a character-driven movie more than a revenge or political thriller. It’s more about the evolution of grief, and what happens to a mother when you take her kids away from her. How does she continue to live?
“It disturbs me to be an enemy, just because I am who I am: the son of Turkish parents with brown hair and brown eyes. Or that you live in the West, and that you could be a target simply because of where you are from. We do not defend a political ideology but somehow we are targets. The only thing I can do is strike back with a film. My movie is a strike-back.”
In the Fade is narrated in three chapters. The first one is all about Katja (Krugger), who marries Nuri (Numan Acar), in prison. He is serving time for a drug-related offence. But he is soon out, and the couple live a happy life with their six-year-old son. The second chapter is all about the horrific nail-bomb attack in which the father and son are killed. The third segment takes us into revenge and retribution.
Akin’s work, competing for the Palm dÓr, is well shot, neatly executed and had the ability to keep this critic glued to his seat. Intelligently conceived, Akin’s In the Fade has the same power and punch that we saw in his earlier The Cut - a bold plot about the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million people were butchered.
The question now is, as we go closer to the Palm dÓr, whether Akin’s vengeful tale will shake the Pedro Almodovar jury to give it a prize. There are of course other equally strong contenders like Redoubtable (a lovely take on Jean-Luc Godard), the American Civil War drama, The Beguiled, and Francois Ozon’s Amant Double about a torrid love affair between a psycho-analyst and his young patient.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 28 years.)
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