Dissection of a Marriage

Anatomy of a Fall

Director: Justine Triet

Cast: Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Samuel Theis, Milo Machado Graner, Antoine Reinartz, Jehnny Beth, Camille Rutherford

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Languages: English & French

Festival: European Film Festival

French director Justine Triet’s riveting courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall won the coveted Palm d’Or at the 2023 Festival de Cannes and is a complex dissection of a marriage after it has abruptly ended.

The scenario is set up more like a philosophical question which generates more inquiry than any form of closure.

A couple live in a remote chalet in the French Alps. They have a young son who is visually impaired. One fine day after the wife gives a brief interview to a literary student, the son goes for a walk with his guide dog and returns to discover his father dead on the snow, having fallen from the top floor of the attic window. Was the husband killed or did he commit suicide? If he was killed, there are only two suspects: the wife and the son.

Anatomy of a Fall is a skilfully directed family mystery, in which director Triet’s focus is exclusively on the portrayal of the relationship between mother and son and in particular the role of the mother and the wife, in this case Sandra Voyter superbly played by German actress Sandra Huller (I am Your Man) who actually deserves an Oscar nomination for this role.

Huller’s multi-layered performance in English and French is phenomenal as the less than conventional German mother who finds herself the chief suspect in her French husband’s murder as the criminal trial begins her entire life, her relationship with her husband and their son is dissected in a courtroom in Grenoble, France.

Justine Triet’s portrayal of the husband Samuel is clever and unique, he is almost entirely off-screen except for a key flashback scene in the middle of the film in which the court is played back an audio recording of a marital spate between Samuel and Sandra about six months before his fatal fall.

At the beginning of Anatomy of a Fall, audiences have to watch the opening scene extremely carefully. Unlike in American or even British films, Justine Triet refuses to guide the audience through this complex trial to a satisfactory conclusion, instead she plays with the viewers sympathies as they continually shift between Sandra and her son Daniel, while Sandra is flirting with her French lawyer, the eloquent and sympathetic Vincent Renzi played by Swann Arlaud.

Anatomy of a Fall is a psychological film about a marriage that has collapsed and a family racked with guilt, infidelity and tragedy. Triet also asks the audience to question perspective.

Is an event better to be seen from a male or female point of view? Philosophically speaking who was really responsible for the man falling to his death? Was it the wife or her son? What about motive?

Despite the second half being too long, Anatomy of a Fall is a fascinating film about gender relationships, possible murder and complex marriages.

If audiences enjoy a riveting contemporary courtroom drama, then watch Anatomy of a Fall, for the multi-dimensional performance by Sandra Huller and the intriguing direction of Justine Triet. Anatomy of a Fall gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is an intelligent courtroom drama, which will challenge viewers and offer a fresh almost unsettling cinematic perspective.

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