The German-French production “In the Fade” earned a nomination Monday in the foreign-language film category for the Golden Globes, where it will face off with Chilean, Cambodian, Russian and Swedish-German-French movies. The Times caught up with director Fatih Akin soon after he got the news — a little earlier than he expected.
Where were you when you heard the news of the nomination?
I was at home in Hamburg, Germany. I mixed up the time. I thought the live stream was at 5 p.m. German time but it was at 3 p.m. My driver was calling me. He’s become a good friend and he was the first to call. I was like, “Wow.”
Your film is about a woman’s quest for justice after her son and immigrant husband are killed in a neo-Nazi bomb attack. What does this story say about the world we live in today?
It is a reflection of the world we live in. I did the film because I needed a catharsis. Neo-Nazi attacks in Germany have happened all my life. They started in the 1980s with skinheads. It always seemed like a personal attack on me, so I needed a catharsis. That’s why I did my film. But somehow this project of mine became relevant all over the world, including the U.S. This need for catharsis seemed to be everywhere. What happened with neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., is not just a coincidence. This is a globalized world we’re living in. What happens in the U.S. is connected to what’s happening in Germany.
How was the film received in Germany?
Mostly positive. I took a real event and made fiction out of it. Germans mostly don’t like that or they get confused with that. They like a particular order. What is reality? What is fiction? But they didn’t have a problem with this film, which surprised me. I expected the reaction to be much more divided. The most positive and moving reactions I got were from women. Female film critics by far liked the film more than men. Maybe that’s because of Diane Kruger’s performance.
It was your first time working with Kruger, who plays your protagonist, Katja. What was that like?
I will use a cliché, but she was like a sister. She really was. It was a partnership. I came with half an idea and she came with half an idea, and together we made one idea out of it. Writing the character was not very difficult for me. I live with a woman, and I observe her and her friends. So when Diane came, it was never like a woman wouldn’t do this. It was more like, “Don’t you think we could create more suspense if the character did this?” Diane has a very great sense for the whole thing, not just her performance. “
This is your first Golden Globe nomination.
“Yeah, man. I was too much underground before.”