ANATOMY OF A FALL
(***Ĺ)-VITO CARLI

"...darkly rewarding... "

A Riveting Courtroom/Family Drama

(110923) 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 Moon and Oppenheimer also had good court scenes). A large part of the filmís quality comes from the fact that the director obviously tried to find novel ways to shoot the courtroom scenes and she avoids all the clichťs and plot tropes that usually
accompany courtroom dramas.

It is about a court case involving a woman blamed when her husband plummets to his death.
His body is found outside the coupleís chalet in the snow. He has a deep gash in his head and
blood is everywhere. The forensics experts canít 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 (itís hard to say
for sure because the field is still pretty crowded). It has already won the 2023 Palm Dí Or, the
highest award at the Cannes Film Festival and its equivalent of best picture. Surprisingly, the
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 itís 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 fine
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 fatale hedonist
that Sharon Stone played so well, Sandyís character comes off as respectable and restrained and
slightly androgynous. Also, she is a German intellectual academic living in France.

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 is being
interviewed by a flirtatious grad student Zoe with Samuel (played by Samuel Theis) who
obviously adores her and obviously has romantic designs on her. But they are rudely interrupted
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 centís ďP.I.M.PĒ 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 finished hers
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 kidís dog Snoop (Since
there are a few American hip hop references I wonder if he is named after Snoop Dogg the
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 dadís body in
scene that is shot from a low angle from the dogís perspective in an interesting shot that seems
inspired by Sam Fullerís 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 and
marketed as a courtroom drama because of the painfully honest marriage scenes it is has more
in common with Igmar Bergmanís Scenes from a Marriage or John Cassavetesís A Woman
Under the Influence than Twelve Angry Men because it is so focused on the negative power
dynamics in the coupleís 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.
 

Directed by:    Justine Triet
Written by:    Screenplay by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
Starring:    Sandra Huller, Swan Arlaud, Daniel Maleski
Released:    10/29/23 (USA-wide)
Length:    152 minutes
Rating:    Not Rated
Available On:    At press time playing at the Music Box and other
 Chicago area theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the next session of the Monthly Poetry Show on the first Saturday of every month at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted hosted by Vittorio Carli.
 

ANATOMY OF A FALL 2023 Les Films Pellťas
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.

 

LAST TIME VITO REVIEWED:
"Killers of the Flower Moon"

     

NEXT TIME VITO REVIEWS:
"the Creator"