Fatih Akin captures the NSU murders of 2004 in Cologne, with Diane Kruger playing the lead as a woman who lost her husband and son at the hands of Neo-Nazis
“Hey”, Katja (Diane Kruger) screams to a woman who is leaning her bike against a street lamp. “You need to lock your bike, otherwise somebody will steal it”. The woman (Hanna Hilsdorf) turns around and answers, “I’ll be back in a minute. It will be fine” and disappears into a shop. Katja doesn’t know that this is the woman who is about to kill her family.
Fatih Akin makes the NSU murders of 2004 a subject of discussion and rewrites the story while stressing the personal fight of a woman after the loss of her family. Instead of showing the political, forensic background of the assassination of 2004, he tells the story of the sorrow and revenge of Katja Sekerci when the justice system is not able to sentence the offenders despite hard evidence in favour of their punishment.
Nuri Sekerci is the husband of Katja Sekerci and the father of their little son Rocco. Serkeci is a Turkish immigrant with a criminal record. Due to drug dealing and bodily harm he served a long time in prison. After prison, he opened his own translation and accountancy firm. Then, a bomb, filled with nails is placed in front of Nuri Sekerci’s office by a young white woman. Katja Sekerci speaks to the woman right before the explosion. After the assassination, Katja feels certain that the perpetrators were Neo-Nazis and does everything conceivable to help the police to find them. But the detective superintendent seeks the perpetrator in Nuri Sekerci’s immediate milieu, ignoring Katja’s suspicions and leading the investigation in the completely wrong direction.
Akin, who is also a son of Turkish immigrants, transfers important facts from the real events into Aus dem Nichts. From 2000 to 2004 nine foreigners were killed by an extreme right-wing terrorist group. The NSU assassinations in Cologne happened on the 9th June 2004 in the Mühlheimer Keupstraße which is the centre of Turkish business life. A bike containing a bomb filled with nails completely destroyed a hair salon. The effects of the attack were huge, many other shops and cars were damaged badly and 22 people were injured. Before the police admitted that the crime may have had a Nazi background and were able to find the real perpetrators, they excluded the possibility of the involvement of National Socialist groups absolutely, just as Akin shows in the film. But Akin also chooses to present some aspects differently. The perpetrators in the film are found within a few months through a photofit and helpful hints given by the family of one of the perpetrators. This is a huge contrast to what really happened. In fact, it took seven years to link the assault to the Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund.
Akin depicts the assaults from the perspective of the victim rather than stressing the motives of the assassins. Diane Kruger is a convincing lead who displays an enormous variety of emotions. She offers new facial facets; she takes us through a whole universe of feelings which she acts in such a convincing way that one can really feel the pain the character is going through. Kruger’s emotions vary from horror and fright to emotional numbing and fossilization. The pictures are colorless and monotonous, only grey, blue and brown. Akin creates an atmosphere of oppression and silence through images which are deeply touching.
But as affecting as these scenes are, Akin leaves important details out. Even though we see lots of emotions and the struggle of the victim, he does not stress the mistakes and failures of the German justice system in 2004. This leads to him shortening the story radically and defusing the situation way too early.
Diane Kruger won an award for best female actor at the film festival in Cannes. If you want to see her at her best, make sure to see the film. But if you want to see a film which gives you all the important background information about the assassination of 2004, you might not be satisfied with the story line.