In the Fade Interview

Interview: Director Fatih Akin and Star Diane Kruger on the Realism and Raw Emotions of 'In the Fade'

January 18, 2018Britany Murphy

In the Fade was one of the anticipated foreign language films at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, and having had the chance to see it when it was here at the festival, it is clear to see why.

It a story that is both tragic, yet inspiring, centered on a woman who has lost everything and yet still finds a way — after grief takes hold of her — to get up and focus on the task at hand, to get justice for the family she's lost. In a world so full of hatred, defying the odds seem insurmountable.

The Reel Roundup had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable interview with the film's director, Fatih Akin, and its lead actress, Diane Kruger, who won the Best Actress award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for her role as Katja. The following is an edited version of that discussion.

What was the idea behind doing a film like In the Fade, and why did you, Diane, want to be a part of it?

Akin: First it was meant as a political thing, in a way. I read newspapers, like everybody does, and we have [had] a problem in Germany with neo-Nazis [for] a while. Actually, since after the second World War, and it was never really over, you know? I'm a kid of the '90s, and a lot of assassinations and attacks happened in the '90s in Germany. They were attacking Turks and colored people, or people from everywhere because they were not white. And I was so angry about it. Since then, I wanted to write something about it.

But it's difficult to write about your anger in an entertaining way, in a reflecting way. It took a while. Once I had the screenplay, I wanted to have an "Aryan" actress. And in Germany, we have the usual suspects for actresses, and I wanted to have some[one] special, so [Diane Kruger] came to my mind.

Kruger: I did know about this project, but I met Fatih in Cannes five years ago and went up to him to say, "I would love to work with you if you ever have anything," because I was a big fan of his movies. And then he remembered, and five years later he called to talk about this movie, and I immediately said yes. But I would have been an extra in his movie, to be honest.

I really liked the fact that you didn't turn Diane's character into a crazy woman during all this martial law stuff at the end. She just did what she had to do. Was there any thought that maybe Hollywood might want you to do it more the other way?

Akin: I start with [that] background, but then once [Diane] was involved, it was a film about the foreground, and the background somehow became exchangeable, you see? It was never meant as a "Hollywood" film. I saw a lot of Asian films before that, because of how they deal with revenge. You have these Korean films by my soul brother, Park Chan-wook, and they are different films. I like to watch them because there's a lot of blood and a lot of beautiful women in them and all this crazy stuff in there, but I cannot do that.

Even if I could, I could not because I have to believe what I do. So we have this very spectacular story of this woman doing these spectacular things, and spectacular things happen to her. But how can I make it so convincing and as believable as possible? So the Korean way is not the right way, the Hollywood way is not the right way — I have to find my own way to make it believable.

Diane, this is the second movie you've been in that's dealt with Nazis (Inglorious Basterds was the other one). What parallels do you see in the world today, particularly in the States and in Germany?

Kruger: Yes, this is about a neo-Nazi attack, but that's actually not the reason why I wanted to be part of it. I thought this was actually a movie about the people that stay behind, you know? And have to deal with losing everything. I'm very much a child of the European Union, and when I was growing up, all borders were opening up and all these opportunities and possibilities came my way. So as you and as we all are living in this world where it seems like we're moving backward, rather than forwards, and terrorists have become part a nearly daily thing to deal with, I find myself — I'm sure, like many people — staring at the TV screen and thinking, "Everybody's being reduced to numbers."

And [with] TV [channels] like CNN and FOX, it's become this: 200 people die and there's horrible images for a day, and then we move on to the next story, right? And we never hear about the people that stay behind. The murderers [and] the terrorists become these instant stars, because we want to know how they end[ed] up becoming murderers. And they can be jihadists, they can be neo-Nazis, they can be some crazy guy running amok. I like that [in] this movie, we don't know anything really about these people, because at the end of the day it doesn’t really fucking matter.

All that matters is what happened and how people can live, and [how they can] go on — or can they go on — after this terrible thing has happened. And I was emotionally really connected with that. That's what interested me. I'm sure that Fatih had different motivations to write this movie, but to me it was important that it wasn't a patronizing film.

Something else that's really core to the film is just how destructive hate is as an emotion, not only from the neo-Nazi side, but from Diane's character's side as well. Was it important that that really came through in the film and in Diane's performance?

Kruger: I think hate and all the emotions you will go through needed to be there. I think there's even a moment where you think, "Maybe she's going to go back to Germany and have another kid, now that she can." Maybe she is going to find love with this lawyer, who knows? Because I think you would go through all these stages, and I think the ending was very poetic, in a way, because she can't go on living, and so they shouldn't. And that was Katja's choice. I don't know what I would do; I don't even have a kid. But I got where she ended up, and so I'm hoping that all those layers have come through. She's not a murderer — that needs to be clear. She's not just going to go and karate chop some guy.

Justice was denied. So, was that a big turning point in her motivation?

Akin: I think you guys here in Canada, and us in Germany, we don't have the death penalty. And it's okay, though. I support that. I think society always has to be smarter than the individual. As an individual, if I would face what the character would face (and I hope that never will happen), [that] might make me maybe not [as] smart as society asks me to be. I'm okay with what society has created; I support that. I vote for that. I defend that. But like I said, the individual is not always as smart as the whole [of] society should be.

Fabienne Berthaud's Sky, which you were also in, Diane, had premiered at the exact same theater. These films are dramatically different, but yet there seems to be a common thread running through them. Did you find a parallel between them as well, or did you feel like they were completely separate experiences?

Kruger: I mean, as an experience, they were really different. But I think the common thread might be [that of] women choosing whatever path their life was going [in]. And in both films, they're the central character in the movie. They don't serve a male storyline, they're proactive. So in that sense, maybe. But this movie was definitely a much more trying and intense experience than Sky, for sure.

There isn't that sort of proactiveness in many films. So perhaps it's the case that you just happen to find the ones in which that emotion is expressed.

Kruger: I try, [but] it's not easy. A part like this or Sky doesn't come along [often].

The performances in the movie were really powerful. So, to what places as an actor did you have to go? And as a director, how was it to film these emotionally-charged scenes?

Kruger: You just gotta jump off that cliff, you know? A lot of it is preparation; allowing yourself to feel. And, you know, you're naked. It's empathy, putting yourself in those shoes and talking to people. Just listening to your director too, because Fatih, he has a family, and listening to what he would do — I don't know, you just gotta allow yourself to feel it.

Akin: I create a space. That's the only thing I really do. I create a space where my actors don't have to fear. This is the only thing I can do. Using tricks like going out for dinner and having drinks, just to create the space where we trust each other. And I've never met an actress who was that prepared. Normally, in Germany, they're wonderful, great actors. And I don’t want to complain about them, but the difference is [that], in Germany, very often you tell the actors, "Okay, you go two steps and then you turn to your right, and then you say the line. But don't say it too slow. And then you turn back." Like that, like puppets or marionettes. And it was not like this at all. Diane was prepared! So I just had to say "action" and "cut," and that's it!

Has the film come out in Germany yet?

Kruger: No.

So you don't know what kind of reaction those audiences will have to it.

Kruger: They will love it.

Akin: It's not a film to just be loved. If everybody loved the film, then there's something wrong with this film. It's that sort of film.

In the Fade opens in Toronto January 19th, 2018, before expanding to Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa on January 26th, as well as other cities throughout the winter.

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