“It’s a very personal film," said Diane Kruger. "And with what just happened in Manchester, it’s all the more painful to see it." The actress was speaking from the Croisette, where Fatih Akin’s thriller In the Fade is set to premiere tonight in the competitive slate of the Cannes Film Festival.
Kruger plays the starring role of Katija, a woman who loses her family to a terrorist explosion. While dealing with the aftermath and immense loss, Katija plots her revenge against the Neo-Nazi terrorists who got away. “The film explores how you live after something like this happens, when you lose the people you love most in life, how to go on—with the grief, shock and heartache.”
While this is the Hanover-bred actress’ first fully German language film—she of course memorably spoke her native tongue in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds—it's not her first time at the Cannes rodeo, having first touched base in the French Riviera for the premiere of Troy in 2004, then her most high-profile role as Helen, and later in 2009 when Basterds competed for the Palme d’Or. “It’s truly non-stop here, I just got here and haven’t had a moment to breathe! It’s great though.” On Sunday, at the festival's closing ceremony, Kruger was honored with the coveted Best Actress prize for her harrowing performance, which many critics called a highlight of the film.
The film is so eerily appropriate with the Manchester bombing…
It sucks how timely it is. And because of that I’m even more sensitive to that subject. You always hear and see that an X number of people were killed in a bombing, but you never see how people actually live with it after, which is what this film is about. So the reaction to the film will be interesting.
But your character, Katija, doesn’t just accept her fate, she tracks down the Neo-Nazis who killed her family…
In the film I catch who did it, there’s a big trial—I don’t want to give it away— but they get off. They have an O.J. Simpson thing, even though there is no probability that they didn’t do it. I don’t want to say it’s about revenge, but it’s about how to live through something like that as well. On top of the loss, the cruelty, on top of everything, my character is not a killer. She’s a regular person.
It’s such a loaded movie. What was the most emotionally trying scene?
Honestly, I feel like I nearly died from it. Between the guilt she feels from having dropped off her kid and her husband to go to a spa with friends, and the guilt that my husband’s parents put on me, they say, ‘If you just did what you should have been doing, and taking care of him and the kid they would still be alive.’ From that, to picking out coffins for the funeral, to coming home to an empty nest and putting all your hope into, 'At least the killers are going to go to jail for what they’ve done,' and then once they’re free, asking myself how can I live knowing that these people are free? It’s not an easy movie. I feel I gave everything to this film.
What real-life research or elements did you bring to the film?
The director is a very realist filmmaker. I met with a lot of people who lost children, who lost kids, through murder. I’ve heard from women that when people die from murder, the only thing that gives them any semblance of closure is to see the body, to bury them, to say good bye. And in this case, my character's husband and daughter were killed with a bomb, so there’s no body. In the film, Katija begs the police officer if she can at least let her say good bye to her kid or husband. The officer tells me there is nothing to say goodbye to. That was a really difficult day on set.
It must have been so heartbreaking meeting with those who have lost loved ones…
You try to ask questions to understand. But you just see these completely shattered people. Some people have miraculously found solace by talking about it, while others can barely speak. Also, we all know how we feel when we see these images on television—whether it’s refugees found dead on shores, or body parts in the streets because of attacks. I just know the horror I feel just watching it. I tried to let that pain inhabit me; I still feel Katija every day.
How do you feel her? Is it something as simple as passing a family on a street, and seeing love and family in a different light?
Yes. Also in my personal life, my stepdad, and my grandmother passed away. My stepfather passed away actually while we were filming. Sometimes life is just weird. Things just happen at weird times. So I had a lot of personal grief. It almost feels raw. It was a very specific time in my life. It’s hard to explain this to someone. I know I was feeling very honest through those scenes.
With such an emotionally trying script, what made you sign on to the project?
From the beginning I was emotionally invested in this woman—from the get go. I wanted to know what she was going to do. It was a very emotional movie. Yes, she is dealing with a terrorist attack, but that’s on the side. We follow this woman through this journey of grief, and I connected with that. I felt her pain, I felt her rage of knowing these people were getting off. Every scene she went through, I felt I wasn’t acting. I felt I was there, with her, and that’s what attracted me to it. Even being from Germany, the amount of Turkish immigrants in Germany is a big problem. It continues to be a racial problem. A blonde German girl marrying a Turkish immigrant like I did in the film is still frowned upon. I know these characters, I knew my character. It was one of those movies you felt that was written for you, that you had always walked in that character’s footsteps.
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