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Anatomy of a Fall is a French crime thriller written and directed by Justine Triet and co-written by her husband, Arthur Harari. The film’s plot takes place in the serene French Alps, where successful author Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) lives with her blind, preteen son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) and husband Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis). Sandra is forced to prove her innocence when her son Daniel discovers Samuel dead outside of their three-story mountain chalet after a morning walk with the dog. Everyone suspects that Sandra murdered her husband by pushing him out of the third-floor window, especially since Daniel was the main witness.
Sandra and her lawyer, Vincent (Swann Arlaud), make a battle plan to prove her innocence as the forensic teams attempt to construct scenarios and theories on how Samuel could have fallen. She believes that he may have either fallen by accident, as he was working on the attic installations, or that he attempted suicide. The court is difficult to convince, since Sandra claims that she was sleeping as Samuel played the instrumental version of 50 Cent’s song “P.I.M.P.” at a deafening volume and did not notice that Samuel fell until Daniel screamed for her to help him.
The ongoing trial puts a strain on Sandra and her son’s relationship, especially since the case becomes public. There are many details about Sandra’s relationship with her husband that were kept from Daniel and are eventually brought to light during the court hearings. Daniel attempts to cope with the sudden loss of his father by playing piano and becomes distant from Sandra. Daniel is unsure of what to believe when he attends most of the court hearings and listens to his mother’s side of the story.
Audio recordings of Samuel and Sandra arguing are presented in court. Samuel was a struggling novelist who had a complicated marriage with Sandra and often recorded family interactions to use as inspiration for his novels. He was consumed with guilt since Daniel had an accident that impaired his vision when he was four years old and felt that he was at fault. Sandra stated that Samuel had attempted to overdose on pills months before his death and believed that he likely jumped from the window. Her husband also had a history of being prescribed antidepressants that he stopped taking without notifying his psychiatrist.
Is Sandra innocent? Did Samuel really jump? My interpretation of this film is that if Samuel really did jump, then perhaps it was a metaphor of him falling from grace. Perhaps he fell from grace as a father, husband, and writer before the final plummet that ultimately ended his life. I also believe that Daniel’s impaired vision might be a metaphor in terms of possibly being blind to the different narratives that the court and his mother present in front of him. Samuel is not alive to defend himself, thus making everything all the more complicated for Daniel.
Most of the film also consisted of the court trying to argue that Sandra was guilty and the reason for her husband’s untimely death. I think that the film could have been condensed to an hour and a half, given that the film spent nearly three hours trying to solve the anatomy of Samuel’s fall. Throughout the film, I found myself questioning Sandra’s innocence, given that she often seems stoic and unexpressive. I found it questionable that Sandra was casually drinking with the same lawyer that she was previously romantically involved with. It is understandable that everyone responds to grief and loss differently.
As a huge fan of true crime, I do recommend Anatomy of a Fall despite the duration of the film being longer than I anticipated. Triet’s project will have you thinking like a detective and demanding to know what really happened to Samuel. I expected a cliché, dramatic, end-of-the-movie plot twist that is usually included in most American films. However, that cliché drama did not arrive, and I am glad for that. I left the theater still processing the entire plot and feeling as if there were more questions than answers regarding the entire movie.
Anatomy of a Fall screens through Thursday, February 8th.
Wednesday, Feb 7th – 5pm
Thursday, Feb 8th – 2pm