Dir: Justine Triet, Wri; Justine Tried, Arthur Harari | Cast: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner, Samuel Theis | Drama 151’
French director Justine Triet enters the premier league of French film directors with this absorbing and fiercely intelligent psychological drama that sees a writer implicated in the death of her husband.
Certainly deserving its top prize at this year’s Cannes competition Anatomy of a Fall stars Sandra Huller, her second role of the festival, in a gripping courtroom drama that begins with a mysterious death and the gradually dissection of a marriage that in the early scenes appears to have everything going for it, and with an appealing little boy (Machado Garner) to show for it. But who knows what goes on behind the scenes?. And in this case the setting is a remote and picturesque chalet in the French Alps where, as the film opens, successful German novelist Sandra (Huller) is being interviewed by a young PhD student from nearly Grenoble. The relaxed atmosphere sees the two women enjoying wine and gossipy banter, but loud music from the upper floor soon brings this genial meeting to close. Sandra’s husband is composing and playing back his syncopated vibes on a loop. And when Samuel is found dead, having fallen – or jumped – from a window, it gradually dawns that all is not well in this snowy paradise.
Over two hours then slip by in an engrossing battle of wits where the action swings from the magnificent Alpine hideaway to the sober confines of the court where Sandra, defended by her barrister and close friend Vincent (Swann Arlaud), will have to prove her innocence against the vicious cross examination of the prosecution (Antoine Reinartz). And here fact, reality, and fiction come under the spotlight, including Sandra’s dirty laundry which she is forced to reveal in public: her temper, her bisexuality, but also her keen intellect: and once again we realise that the Law is not about discovering the truth but winning the battle of perception.: As Vincent puts it succinctly to Sandra who insists: “I didn’t kill him”. “That’s not the point” – “You need to deal with how you come across to others”. As courtrooms dramas go this is one of the best. MT
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | WINNER PALME D’OR