Murder mystery turns into capable character study
The new film by German-Turkish director Fatih Akin (Head On, Edge of Heaven) is a fascinating mix of political thriller, social commentary and character study. In large part, it’s a murder mystery embedded in a stinging set of very contemporary social issues, but its most compelling qualities reside in the intense, multifaceted performance of Diane Kruger as the story’s central figure.
Katja Sekerci (Kruger) is a freewheeling young woman, happily married to a Kurdish immigrant with whom she has a small son. She’s a doting mom and a thoroughly smitten wife and still has the freedom to pursue intimacies with her longtime best friend Birgit (Samia Chancrin). Her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), is at his office babysitting their son when the explosion of a terrorist bomb kills them both.
That plainly sets a whole array of fraught events in motion, all of them more or less predictable, but with very few of them fitting into any comfortable niche, morally or emotionally. The screenplay (co-written by Akin and actor/filmmaker Hark Bohm) divides itself into three titled sections: “Family,” which grapples with the wrenching grief of Katja and those close to her; “Justice,” which plays out as a meticulously convoluted courtroom drama; and “The Sea,” in which Katja tracks the Neo-Nazi couple suspected of the crimes into the seaside resorts of Greece.
For some, those three main sections differ from each other in ways that leave the film with a rather disjointed feeling, overall. For me, however, that disjointedness is central to the film’s abiding concern with the assorted disconnects that plague the characters and the society they find themselves in. And with Kruger’s performance in particular, we get a stingingly nuanced portrait of what all that might mean in human terms.
Part of the special exhilaration of this movie is that while it is plainly averse to any kind of conventional “happy ending,” it does nudge us toward several different possible endings for Katja’s story before arriving at its own actual, and devastatingly trenchant, conclusion.