"Anatomy of a Fall"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ review: Sandra Hüller may or may not be a murderer in chilly courtroom drama

‘Anatomy of a Fall’ review: Sandra Hüller may or may not be a murderer in chilly courtroom drama

"Anatomy of a Fall"

They say trends come in threes. And so, in the vein of Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer” and Cedric Kahn’s “The Goldman Case”, Cedric Kahn’s “Anatomy of a Fall”, Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” convincingly demonstrates that the court is has become the most fertile ground for contemporary art French cinema, which offers incisive authors a reason and an opportunity to put social structures to the test. While calling the institution of marriage to the stand, Triet’s insightful film pits the ambient tensions and illogical loose ends of domestic life against the hard, rational light of a legal system that seeks order out of chaos.

Rounding out her impressive hat-trick, “Toni Erdmann” and “The Zone of Interest” star Sandra Hüller dazzles in a role clearly written with the actor in mind. She plays Sandra, a bisexual writer born in Germany and living in France who is accused of murdering her male partner in a way bizarrely predicted by one of her novels. And if that description comes to mind another ice-blond (in a performance, incidentally, which also rocked the Cannes Film Festival, in 1992), the echo is wholly intentional and wholly irrelevant. Indeed, “Anatomy of a Fall” is full of such anti-portents – coincidences or clues, depending on who you ask, echoes or empty noise, depending on who is listening.

In other words, the film deals with uncertainty, so let’s stick to the facts. One winter morning in the French Alps, Samuel (Samuel Theis, notice a trend?) is found dead outside his home. The cause of death is acute head trauma, that’s clear, but forensics can’t indicate whether the trauma occurred before or after a three-story fall. And what about that fall, was it either a push, or was it a ju—ah we’re slipping again, so back to the facts: Sandra was the only other person in the house, and tension was in the air.

They argued the previous night, before falling into a long-distance fight early that morning, while Samuel – himself a frustrated novelist – choked up and surreptitiously concluded a flirtatious interview between his more successful wife and a sycophantic college student. (His murder weapon to kill the interview? A calypso instrumental remix of “PIMP” played at full blast. A beloved favorite or a misogynistic micro-aggression? It’s up to the lawyers to decide!)

Or, more precisely, for the jury and for the spectators themselves. Triet, however, has no intention of taking off his hat. Perfecting a subplot from his (beautiful) 2016 comedy “Sleeping with Victoria” — which follows a lawyer whose personal life is in shambles as he deftly wins a case for a defendant whose innocence is always in doubt — Triet once again plays a time with the judicial structures, not moral, painting in shades of gray leaving Sandra’s innocence an open and persistent question. While the director’s previous work followed legal detachment and personal collapse along parallel narrative tracks, ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ juxtaposes them to devastating effect, surpassing the modest pleasures of a cerebral thriller by acknowledging that family tragedy is the same no matter what. happen.

Bearing the brunt of that tragedy is Sandra’s son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner). Blinded by a childhood accident that left his parents’ marriage with scars that would never fully fade, the 10-year-old goes from silent witness to the final, heartbreaking victim of the larger process. In the beginning the boy and his mother are united under one roof, sharing a liminal pain made literal as an unfinished chalet turned crime scene – a destroyed house that can never be a home again, as it remains frozen in time to the moment worst of their whole life. The police rummage, take pictures, cordon off rooms and turn yesterday’s haphazardly thrown dirty laundry into tomorrow’s forensic evidence.

But soon their perspectives diverge, first when the prosecution (played by “BPM” star Antoine Reinartz) questions Sandra, and then when the defense (played by “By the Grace of God” Swann Arlaud) turns the tables on the died the man himself, establishing a legal strategy to try Samuel for his own death. Whoever wins, the boy loses, and as the perspective of him gradually takes on more narrative focus, the icy aspect of the film grows colder and soon begins to burn.

Triet co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur Harrari, who is himself the acclaimed director of ‘Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle’, the star of ‘The Goldman Case’ and – it would be remiss not to mention – Triet’s real-life Bride . I mention it only because metafiction (or autofiction, as the French call it) plays an integral part of the plot. Sandra rose through the literary ranks by mining her life for material, and her late husband had only just begun to do the same at the time of her disappearance. The discovery of Samuel’s hidden audio files recording the couple’s most heated arguments—including the one from the night before his death—might seem like a godsend to an anxious prosecution, while just as easily opening larger questions about the act itself. of introspection. If you’re really committed to airing out your dirty laundry, don’t you instinctively choose the smelliest socks?

Sandra has implicitly promised her readers that her fiction contains hints of truth, but then what artist doesn’t? Though passages imagining spousal murder threaten to condemn the film’s protagonist to the court of public opinion well before a verdict is reached, they also coincide with Triet and Harrari’s broader thematic concerns. “Anatomy of a Fall” is never really about the process, and it doesn’t just explore the chasm between empiricism and emotion; At its searing best, the film follows the destruction of the family with cold precision. If an artist relies on memories, why doesn’t he also share nightmares? Why not build a polar vortex that crushes fact beneath fiction, that lifts from last night’s discussion, today’s viewing of a 90s classic, and tomorrow’s worst fears? A cyclone that makes the mind fly and prepares the heart for a heavy fall.

Grade: A-

“Anatomy of a Fall” premiered in competition at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution in the United States.

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