ANATOMIE D’UNE CHUTE (France 2023) ***** Top 10

(The Anatomy of a Fall)

Directed by Justine Triet

 

The film that both received great applause during the screening at Cannes and the coveted Palme d’Or (Best Film) is a taut courtroom drama and thriller that keeps one glued to the screen from start to end.  

Great performances from all especially the lead, Sandra Huller and including the dog that vomits and has its eyes rolled and whitened.  

Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is a successful German writer who lives in the French Alps with her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) and their visually impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner).  The son had suffered a visual loss due to a car accident that the father blamed himself for.  A brilliant, decibel-bursting opening scene suggests tensions in their isolated chalet, so when Samuel is discovered dead in the snow beneath one of their windows, suspicion is quickly aroused.  Did Samuel take his own life, or was he pushed to his death?  When the police investigation proves to be inconclusive — its varying angles hinting at the microscopic examination to come — Sandra is ultimately indicted and put on trial.  

Sandra insists “I did not kill him.”  But her lawyer says that, that fact does not matter and that what matters is what it looks like in court.  The prosecuting attorney is understandably nasty and can twist all the evidence against Sandra, forcing her to unveil her emotions and her life.  The twist near the film’s end ties all the ends tidily in what is an excellent film all around.

There are many segments that demonstrate both the director’s Triet’s mastery and cinematic verve.  The scene in which the judge brings the son into her chambers to tell him that she will not allow him in the court because the trial might be too disturbing for a young kid is a case in point.  The boy argues that he has already been hurt by the father’s death and the mother’s trial.  When the judge insists that certain facts should not be known to the boy, Daniel replies that he will learn everything from social media and the internet.  The camera moves away from the boy’s face to reveal a dilated pupil of his eye, reminding the audience that Daniel is visually impaired.  The judge’s reply is not heard but the next scene shows the boy attending the trial.  The segment also shows that the judge is not one that always has the correct answers.  Another lengthy segment is a recording the court hears of an argument between Sandra and her husband before the accident. Director Triet has the ability to draw her audience into their argument.  Their reasons for fighting are very real and something that every couple can relate to.

Director Triet’s film runs over two hours but the time flies in this compelling film.  I have seen the film twice once at the Toronto International Film Festival and again with a screen prior to the film’s release.  The strength of an excellent film must survive a second viewing.  intriguing second viewing.

A must-see for all those who love courtroom drama and relationships/family conflict.  The couple fight vigorously but “Samuel is my soul-mate” Sandra declares.  ANATOMIE D’UNE CHUTE is filmed in French, English, and a little German.

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