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Neo-Nazi attacks move front and center in ‘In the Fade,’ as in life

Diane Kruger stars as a woman who loses her son and husband in an attack in Germany’s foreign-language Oscar entry “In the Fade.”
(Magnolia Pictures)

The version of “In the Fade” that lives today is not the movie writer and director Fatih Akin originally intended to make. He had a screenplay, he had financing, but he knew it just wasn’t right. And what he decided to do is almost unheard of.

“I was completely financed, and I didn’t like what I wrote so I skipped it,” Akin says. “I gave all the money back. And did two other films in between.”

The first incarnation centered on a German man seeking revenge for a terrorist attack inspired by real-life attacks by Neo-Nazi groups against Turks living in Germany, where justice apparently wasn’t served in the courts. Akin says friends who read that script always had problems with the hero’s motivation. That is until he decided to change the lead to a mother who lost her child and husband in a bombing.

Akin is well aware that the Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va., in August has put the activities of such groups front and center in the United States. He notes, “It confirms that it matters. And it confirms certain things, which are said in the screenplay. These were based on research. I did my homework. I know that there is a network of international Neo-Nazis. They’re bound together.”

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Diane Kruger, Numan Acar, Denis Moschitto and Samia Chancrin in “In the Fade.”
(Magnolia Pictures )

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Diane Kruger plays the mother and eventual heroine in “Fade,” and her harrowing performance took home the best actress prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The German-born actress felt it was a relevant film when they were shooting it, but had no idea how timely it would become just a few months after its premiere.

“We see lots of films that are about terrible incidents and terrorist attacks, but we really rarely hear about the people that have to live with this terrible incident, that have to stay behind and that are trying to get justice for what happened,” Kruger says. “I think that it’s a very emotional film and a very personal film. I really was attracted to the fact that it’s a very international subject in a way even though it’s in the German language. And I felt like Fatih was the right director to bring this movie to life and elevate it.”

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Kruger says playing Katja was the hardest thing she’s ever done, but that she knew what she was getting into with Akin at the helm. She notes, “Fatih is the kind of director that demanded that I take a long time to prep for this. I really, really jumped off that cliff with him. I prepped for at least six months for this role.”

It wasn’t just the preparation or the fact the role itself was so taxing. Kruger was so exhausted after production wrapped that it took her five months to even consider taking another project.

“There was never a moment where I felt I could release some of the tension,” Kruger says of the production. “And then you know how life is. While we were filming my stepdad passed away and so I was feeling a lot of personal grief myself. [It was] the darkest time in my adult life that I can remember for many reasons and it just so happened that life and my job collided. I mean I can see it in the movie for sure. I know the moments where I can see the darkness that I was in personally.”

Not only does Kruger’s character have to deal with the death of her son and husband in the film’s first act, but a very public trial where a smart defense lawyer uses her own actions to try to demonstrate his client’s innocence. Kruger displays a raw emotion and “utter loss” during some of these courtroom scenes that she also saw in the eyes of the “many, many people” she’d met with that had a family member in similar bombing attacks.

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“There were these unresolved emotions because they never got to say goodbye to their loved ones,” Kruger recalls. “Especially when [there wasn’t] a real body to bury. And I don’t know. It was something that over months and months creeped up inside of me.”

Akin could see how taxing the role was for Kruger, and shooting the film in chronological order didn’t make it any easier.

“The scenes where she had to express the most, like the breakdown and all that, [were] in the very beginning,” Akin says. “And it was very exhausting for her and for me too, because she was so focused. She was so concentrated. I never met such a focused or a concentrated actor in my whole life.”

Speaking almost a year from when principal photography commenced, Kruger says she still feels the weight of the empathy she felt for her character and the people she met who went through tragedies similar to the recent Manchester and Las Vegas attacks.

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“Every time something like this happens, I get this overbearing sense of responsibility and I really understand without it having happened to me personally what those families go through and what it takes to continue living,” Kruger says. “So I don’t know, it’s a movie that means the world to me.”

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Diane Kruger and Rafael Santana in “In the Fade.”
(Magnolia Pictures )

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