Anatomy Of A Fall

Kate Young
13th Dec 2023

On paper Anatomy Of A Fall reads like any other crime thriller. A husband dies, wife is pinned for the murder, and we spend the majority of the film guessing did she or didn't she commit the crime. Having taken out the coveted Palme d’Or at the year's Cannes Film Festival, it's plain to see that this film is more than a mystery flick — it’s an examination of a marriage from all angles while embedding the idea that we can never fully comprehend anyone but ourselves.

Sandra Hüller plays Sandra an accomplished author, who the audience is introduced to as she's detailing to her young and attractive female interviewer, what it's like to be a famous writer. As the interview goes on and gets questionably flirtatious, loud music and banging can be heard from above in this remote, snow-surrounded cabin in the French Alps. It’s her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) supposedly renovating the attic space. A reggae version of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” can be heard playing on repeat and noticeably getting louder and louder. He’s aggressively trying to derail the interview, in which he succeeds. The interviewer feeling the weighted presence of the absent man/elephant in the room decides to leave, suggesting that maybe they pursue this some other time. At that same moment the couples visually impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) also sensing the unease, takes the family dog Snoop for a long walk. When he returns, he finds his father Samuel lying face down in the snow, surrounded by a pool of blood and sporting a ghastly head wound.

As the film progresses, Sandra's character is placed under scrutiny by the law, ruthlessly revealing details of the couple's relationship and opening it for examination. Director and Screen Writer Justine Triet presents the question to the audience, did Samuel fall, was he pushed, or did he jump?

Yes, there is a puzzle to solve here and in some ways the film does; I personally walked a tightrope between guilt and innocence so much so that even after the film had concluded I was still questioning. However, that is not what matters here, the real cross-examination is how couples communicate or lack of, and what consequences that can have. It's important to note that all three characters are hindered in some way. Neither main characters speak each other's native tongue and therefore use English as a middle ground and their son who is visually impaired, has to hear the grittier details of his parents' relationship in the court proceeding - Are they ever truly seen and heard by each other?

For the next two and a half hours Anatomy Of A Fall methodically details the investigation and trial that surrounds Samuel's death. With its lineal approach to storytelling and some very clever film stylings you could almost be mistaken for thinking you've stepped into a documentary. All the key techniques are there: b-roll footage of the examiners as they discuss and test blood splatter theories, or personal photos of the actors documenting the characters' visual aging, hidden cameras angles give you that fly on the wall feeling, as if you're intruding into conversations and intimate moments that we shouldn't be privy too. Even the film's most climatic scene is more of a re-enactment then a flashback, as the court is played a recording of the couples most heated and volatile argument (I do wonder if the Depp vs Heard case had any subconscious influence on the film).

Hüller deserves a standing ovation for this role. Not only is she a strong lead but she is a strong female lead, defying the stereotypes placed upon the "grieving wife". Sandra holds her cards close and doesn't play into the melodrama at times she is unnervingly emotionless, which only makes her appear more guilty in the eyes of others. She is a strong, independent, well-educated, comfortable with her sexuality and her infidelities but most of all unapologetic, especially when it comes to her success and the sacrifices, she has made to achieve it; knowing full well that the price paid has been the fallout of her family.

I can understand the buzz around this film, many critics naming it as one of their top 5 films for the year. For me it moved just that tiny bit too slow and I felt like my mind wondered through some of the dialogue. None the less this was a fantastic, intelligently written and directed film that allowed its audience to wade in the grey area. These Characters are complex and so are their relationships. It's an honest look at just how chaotic the life of a couple can be - we love, we fight - with and against each other, we hurt, we suffocate, we resent, and we praise but it's never the whole picture, they are merely just aspects.