Anatomy of a Fall is a thrilling, and emotionally volatile court room/family
drama film. The title may refer to a literal fall early in the film or the fall
of a marriage from grace. Along with Saint Omar it is one of the two excellent
court themed French movies released this year (the recent
Killers of the Flower
also had good court scenes). A large part of the film’s quality
comes from the fact that the director obviously tried to find novel ways to
shoot the courtroom scenes and she avoids all the clichés and plot tropes that
accompany courtroom dramas.
It is about a court case involving a woman blamed when her husband plummets to
His body is found outside the couple’s chalet in the snow. He has a deep gash in
his head and
blood is everywhere. The forensics experts can’t tell if the blow occurred
before the fall or
because of it. Since the main character is so cold and aloof, it is sometimes
hard to identify with
her and the audience may be divided as to whether they want her to win or lose.
The film has gotten much critical acclaim and it is an early favorite to receive
a best actress
Oscar nomination and it might even earn best director and/or film nominations
(it’s hard to say
for sure because the field is still pretty crowded). It has already won the 2023
Palm D’ Or, the
highest award at the Cannes Film Festival and its equivalent of best picture.
film was not selected to represent France in the best foreign film Oscar race in
favor of the new
Juliette Binoche film, The Taste of Things (maybe it’s not French enough) so it
has no chance
to win that award.
Anatomy of a Fall stars the acclaimed German actress Sandra Huller who also gave
performances in Toni Erdmann and the upcoming Holocaust themed, Zone of Interest
in one of
the more memorable performances of the year. Like Catherine Tramell in Basic
Instinct, she is a
bisexual novelist accused of killing a male partner after she predicted his
death in a book, but
this is where the parallels end. In contrast to the drug consuming vampy femme
that Sharon Stone played so well, Sandy’s character comes off as respectable and
slightly androgynous. Also, she is a German intellectual academic living in
The film starts out slowly, taking its time while giving out info and it heats
up to a slow
burn. Both of the lead actors have the same first names as the characters they
play. It all starts
when Sandra Voyter (playing Sandra Huller) who is in a chalet in the French Alps
interviewed by a flirtatious grad student Zoe with Samuel (played by Samuel
obviously adores her and obviously has romantic designs on her. But they are
with loud music. It turns out that her husband is unhappy he is not getting her
attention and he
tries to irritate her by playing an instrumental version of 50 cent’s “P.I.M.P”
as loud as he can.
Shortly after he is found dead with a bump of his dead. Was he killed by someone
else or did he
take the big plunge of his own free will?
At first the couple seem to have a positive marriage but, in the trial, and
during flashbacks we
see that they had their share of dirty laundry. The husband was frustrated
because he was
unhappy with teaching and he was unable to finish his book which he struggled
with for years.
His wife took some central ideas from the book with his permission and actually
but he ended up harboring long-term resentment against her for this.
Samuel and Sandra also have a young son who is eleven, Daniel (played
convincingly by Milo
Machado Graner), is a compelling character in his own right. The kid’s dog
there are a few American hip hop references I wonder if he is named after Snoop
rapper) is also an important character. Since Daniel was hurt in an accident
which blinded him,
the couple blames each other and the child is heavily dependent on the dog for
help. In a
traumatic scene Daniel accompanied by the dog is the one who discovers his dad’s
scene that is shot from a low angle from the dog’s perspective in an interesting
shot that seems
inspired by Sam Fuller’s dog-centric White Dog.
The prosecuting attorney takes the tactic of trying the dead man for his own
suicide and the
other lawyer tries to show that his mom is a cold murderess who possibly wanted
to end the
marriage. The prosecutor is quite willing to crucify the boy in public to get
his desired verdict
and the boy is the true victim of the film for no matter who wins he loses.
We eventually find out the verdict but by that time we care less about the
actual case than the
than the day-to-day machinations of the marriage. Even though it has been billed
marketed as a courtroom drama because of the painfully honest marriage scenes it
is has more
in common with Igmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage or John Cassavetes’s A
Under the Influence than Twelve Angry Men because it is so focused on the
dynamics in the couple’s relationship.
But Anatomy of a Fall is darkly rewarding and it is just as strong and riveting
as the Scarlett
Johansson/Adam Driver film, Marriage Story. It is one of the true highlights
and best films of
the fall film season.