The Anatomy of a Fall

  • 10 Feb - 16 Feb, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

American humourist and TV host Sam Levenson once noted: “Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.” And, that’s not the only miracle that sustains a marriage, as two people in this union will tell you. So what happens when one of them meets a bloody, unnatural death, and the only one around at the time is the spouse? That’s at the heart of this deeply intelligent film, taking the cynicism of courtroom dramas and turning the same on its head, by French screenwriter-director Justine Triet.
Anatomy of a Fall speaks in multiple languages, in a way reinforcing the multiple levels it operates on. Sandra is German, who has come to live in this remote, snowbound French chalet via London, where she met her French husband Samuel. Now, English is the common ground on which the two and their son Daniel meet, especially in navigating the tension between them since their pre-teen boy met with an accident leaving him visually impaired.
The death of Samuel happens against this background, soon after he has ensured that Sandra’s interview with a journalist is cut short mid-talk as he plays raucously loud, incongruously catchy music – which happens to be the instrumental version of the song P.I.M.P by 50 Cent. There is a clear undertone to that interview, Sandra’s laughter as she finally puts it off to another date a little too giddy. The “accident”, of Samuel’s fall, out of the chalet onto the snow, the blood spreading around the body, Daniel stumbling on it returning from a walk, leading to its discovery, follow within the next few minutes.
Triet won’t let it go easy, forcing us to choose and re-choose sides as she tells the story of the lives together of Sandra, a successful writer; Samuel, who has tried and given up on a lot of things, including writing; and their son Daniel, with acutely honed senses in the absence of proper vision. We glimpse their life in snapshots – as testimonies of others in court, as physical evidence in a possible homicide, as secretly recorded videos of a marital fight, as off-camera sounds, as Sandra’s books, as statements exposed as lies, and others taken as truths. Sandra, who is directed to speak in court in French, a language she struggles with, especially in this totally foreign situation, points out what meets the eye can sometimes be too blinding for the truth.
Triet raises questions about relationships and the daily nurture they require, the traditional roles in a marriage, especially care-giving of the child, the unintended biases towards a woman who doesn’t fit that mould, and the process of justice.
Huller, who is nominated for Best Actress Oscar for Anatomy of a Fall – with several awards under her belt already for it – is phenomenal. She stands so rock solid in her brutal honesty that it is difficult to suspect her, even against your best intentions. Huller also dexterously walks the thin line between coming across as cold and refusing to be apologetic for her choices. Her relationship with her son is one of the more subtly delicate ones on screen, with both realising the shadow coming up between them as the investigation proceeds. Can Sandra really stay away from “influencing” Daniel, the sole eyewitness in the case, knowing she can?