Anatomy Of A Fall


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Anatomy Of A Fall
"Hüller has always been an unfussy actress, who allows a character's flaws to shine out in interesting ways." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Things stick in your mind as you watch this slowburn drama from Justine Triet. One of them is the The Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band's version of 50 Cent's P.I.M.P., which rings through the opening, discomfiting sequence and is later reprised in the more austere setting of the French courtroom, where author Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) finds herself accused of killing her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis). Samuel is pumping the track out at high volume from the roof space of their Alpine chalet as a way of disrupting the interview his wife is conducting with a journalist downstairs.

Another image that stays with you is that which confronts Sandra and Samuel's son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) as he returns from walking the family dog Snoop. He is visually impaired so can't see the full horror of his father lying prone on the snow with a head wound - the music still blaring from the room above - but he knows the situation is bad. What follows will see Daniel, who becomes a sort of proxy for us, having to bring a lot of things into mental focus as questions of how his father died begin to be asked. In a sense, what any of us see is less important than how we feel about the situation as the slippery nature of the drama becomes evident.

Sandra seems more surprised than anyone when she finds herself accused. Like the rape victim in fellow Gallic partial courtroom Through The Night, she doesn't fit the expected profile. She's matter of fact in the face of the death, which carries with it a certain suspicion, even if she also seems too no-nonsense and caring about her to be involved with anything so underhand. Hüller has always been an unfussy actress, who allows a character's flaws to shine out in interesting ways - as she did with breakout comedy Tony Erdmann. Here - and in her equally magnetic turn in The Zone Of Interest - she again refuses to 'play nice' with the character, allowing her ambiguities to sing out as she shifts between languages and stories to suit. Triet and her co-writer Arthur Harari let the question of guilt or innocence hang over proceedings as she gets to the real heart of the matter - the anatomy of the couple's relationship.

Through Sandra's conversations with her lawyer Vincent (Swann Arlaud) - who also happens to be her ex-lover - we begin to learn things have been on the rocks since the accident that caused Daniel's sight loss. Another bone of contention is the picking over their lives for fictional material - something laid bare in a devastating recording that is revealed by the incisive prosecutor (Antoine Reinartz).

This is a very densely scripted film that demands attention from an audience, but the camerawork from Simon Beaufils helps to keep Daniel's point of view in focus and, by extension, the film's emotional core, by swinging round to see how he is reacting to the various pieces of evidence.

In the end, it's not the court who really has to be the judge here, but Daniel, sifting through the pieces of his parents' life - a weighing up of evidence that runs a lot deeper than that which we see in the court.

Reviewed on: 10 Nov 2023
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A woman is accused of her husband's murder.
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Director: Justine Triet

Writer: Arthur Harari, Justine Triet

Starring: Sandra Hüller, Samuel Theis, Swann Arlaud, Jehnny Beth, Milo Machado Graner, Antoine Reinartz

Year: 2023

Runtime: 150 minutes

Country: France

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If you like this, try:

Through The Night