Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Aus Dem Nichts’ (In the Fade)

Fatih Akin’s exploration of a mother’s loss is both timely relevant and heart-wrenching.

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Director: Fatih Akin

Writer: Fatih Akin and Hark Bohm

Producer: Fatih Akin, Ann-Kristin Hofmann, Nurhan Sekerci-Porst, Herman Weigel

Main Cast: Diane Kruger and Numan Acar

Running Time: 106 minutes

The camera shakes violently, encapsulating the violent undertakings of the scene at large. Shaky camerawork sometimes equivocates to sloppy directing, but in the case of In the Fade, it is quite the opposite. The intentional misdirection of the camera captures the raw and unapologetic emotions of the main ensemble during a time of crisis—a time that within ten minutes of the film, determines the course to come. This particular crisis explores themes of depression, political ideologies, and social justice as the protagonist of the film, Diane Kruger’s Katja Sekerci, copes with the loss of her husband and child. A sudden and heart-breaking loss, the audience explores Katja’s pain as she embarks on an adventure of rectification and reason.

Never have I been so immediately captivated by a main actor’s performance. For the immediate ten minutes of the film, the audience watches Katja’s relationship with her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), flourish. The audience becomes captivated by their unconventional circumstances, as Nuri is a convicted drug dealer who has been released from prison. The two have a son, Rocco, who becomes their shining star. Whilst the family stands out from most, their love for one another is unparalleled. As soon as the audience admires their situation, the plot turns on itself. Katja’s world is flipped upside down, leaving both the audience and Katja dumbfounded. Diane Kruger’s performance is exemplary, for I felt the anger, confusion, and genuine depression she felt as she coped with the loss of her world. As circumstances intensify once the deaths are deemed homicides, Katja’s grief turned vengeance fulfills the audience as well. The war-path for redemption esteems every party involved, fighting for justice for the lives of two pure souls.

Alongside the moving acting performances, the film’s score strengthened emotional scenes. During vulnerable takes, the score would become solemn and subdued to resonate with Katja’s grief. Because grief is a universal emotion, the audience can understand and empathize with Katja’s quest for self-consolation. In one particular scene, Katja is seen cradling her son’s belongings while lying in his bed. Tears steadily flow down her face as both the score strengthens and the outside rain pours. The rain symbolizes the audience’s frame of mind as sympathy overtakes everyone; the viewers can easily place themselves in Katja’s position as her precious son is gone forevermore.

However, possibly the sincerest portion of the film is the directing. The audience becomes tethered to the characters—anything they feel or do, the audience believes they do as well. As Katja walks into her husband’s store and explores the wreckage that is her former life, she recognizes her family’s blood plastered upon the walls. The blood taunts her, openly bullying her predicament. Her scream pierces the audience like a bullet, shattering our hearts into pieces. We soon realize that Katja’s tears and screams are our own, for everyone can relate to those taken away from us too soon. But possibly the most tender moment of the film is Katja’s reactions to the trial proceeding. Two suspects have been arrested in relation to the crime and undergo civil proceedings in court. Katja acts as a co-plaintiff during the proceedings and listens as witnesses, coroners, and psychologists assess the situation at hand. When the coroner reviews the details of Rocco’s death, including ripped limbs, burns, and torn organs, Katja politely asks to leave the room. But, whilst walking towards the door, Katja innately lashes out at Mrs. Möller, one of the suspects. This raw, pure act of violence stems directly from a mother’s love and fierce protection of her child. The mother lion ferociously protects her cub, a basic instinct that resonates within all.

In the Fade epitomizes its solemn, melancholy tone through the use of dark clothing and light backgrounds. The morning after Nuri and Rocco’s death, Katja can be seen wearing all black clothing while grieving in her living area. The sun’s rays shine bright through the room, but Katja looks like the black sheep amongst a sea of light. A similar situation occurs during the court proceedings. The harsh lighting of the court room contrasts against Katja’s and the prosecutors’ dark clothing. This subtle, but evident, symbolism references the grief that Katja experiences, but also the harshness of her situation. The civil proceedings are brutal, particularly as the defendants viciously attack Katja’s life and judgment. However, scenes like this one emphasize the social justice system’s turbulent, and sometimes unfair, procedures. During an era where race, gender, and social strata influence certain privileges, our social justice system should view each situation without bias. Yet, corrupt situations arise, in which this film indicates is a universal situation. Although this is a German film, the emotional availability and political allegories are relevant to each person and state. These political references are needed in these divisive times, for the universal tie of film can bring us together once more.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Dhogs’

A trifling glimpse into humanity’s weakest moments.

Dhogs begins similar to how it ends: blank faces stare intently ahead, dumbfounded by the scene before them. By blank faces, I am not referring to the audience watching Dhogs, but rather to the audience staring back at us. The scene invites us to become spectators during the film, to join those in the theatre backdrop and thoughtlessly watch the events to come. However, the shot quickly transitions to another blank face—that of an aging, saddened taxi driver. The camera is placed before the man, towards the front of the vehicle, so that we are unaware of where this man is going. But, the destination is not as important as his facial expression as he avoids conversation with the middle-aged man he is driving. The camera flips back and forth between the front and rear of the vehicle, focusing on the taxi driver always. The middle-aged man soon exits the vehicle at his destination and the scene ends. While this opening scene appears rather insignificant, the scene glimpses the film’s intersectionality of characters, lack of dialogue, and demoralizing theme.

A rather bleak film, Andrés Goteira’s psychological thriller explores the depths of the human psych. In particular, Goteira sheds light on humankind’s perilous decision-making. These decisions affect the sequence of events to come and are analyzed through a series of unrelated characters and their lives. One character runs into another, this character affects the other’s future plans, and the course of the film is altered. The film focuses on no more than a few characters at a time, and does so by splitting the film into three sections. Each section presents a fresh perspective to the film through the eyes of new characters, but the stories of previous characters continue to develop. By the conclusion of the film, around eight characters have become intertwined in a tale that connects all of them together.

Because the character development is tedious, the film’s plot is often confusing and trying. The film’s intentions are vague and unannounced until the viewer is almost finished with the film. However, the finale truly ties the film’s characters together, telling the viewer how each character affected the life of another. Through the use of stellar tracking shots, the film often follows a character to his or her destination. The middle-aged man that was driven by the taxi driver is followed to a grand hotel; he sits at the bar and meets a beautiful young woman. The two strike a playful conversation and spend more time together later in the evening. After this short rendezvous, the young woman leaves the hotel to return home. But, by staying out later than intended, she runs into someone else on the way home that she would not have before. These interactions are the core of the film and glimpse the raw undertakings some of us hold. Whilst some hold true intentions, others do not—a first impression is not always what it seems.

The film’s adjustment of sound during pivotal scenes proved to be effective, especially during action or adventure sequences. When the aforementioned woman is walking down the street after her hook-up, the camera pans to the young man following her. The sound gradually increases as the audience, and the woman, becomes aware of the woman’s predicament. The sound climaxes as the man catches up to the woman, but immediately cuts out as the screen turns black. Sound fluctuations like this one greatly improved the suspense of the film, often leaving the viewer uncomfortable and suspicious. Yet, where the sound performance was excellent, the timing of the plot was not. There were many a time when the audience scene would be brought back again, leaving a still scene for close to a minute. These repetitious scenes lengthened the film by five to ten minutes, which became exhausting and somewhat of a nuisance. If used more carefully, the film wouldn’t have been so tedious.

It is evident that the producers put lots of thought into the film, for the editing was the best part of the film. Dhogs was one of the more artsy film thrillers I’ve seen in some time, which brought an air of originality to the film. I would recommend that others view the film to pass their own judgments, but I find the film to be a breath of fresh air. Rather than utilizing its time doing jump scares or gory death scenes, the film slowly built a stage of uncertainty—a stage of unknown possibilities and realist situations. A stage that is unfortunately relatable for some, for the situations presented in the film are raw and sensitive. But, without films like these, which presents situations in a shameful light, humankind would be more irrational than it already is.