Anatomy Of A Fall review | A smartly constructed courtroom drama

anatomy of a fall
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Justine Triet’s Palme D’Or winner is a taut and smart drama with a fascinating murder mystery. Read our Anatomy Of A Fall review. 

Justine Triet’s Anatomy Of A Fall follows Julia Ducournau’s positively bonkers, car-shagging Titane and Ruben Östlund’s vomit-and-diarrhoea-heavy Triangle Of Sadness in winning the coveted Palme D’Or at Cannes Film Festival. The prize, like most festival prizes, means very little to most audiences in the real world, but it does give your film an aura of prestige. 

Anatomy Of A Fall has zero scenes involving loose stools or sex with cars (although vomit actually is a big plot point here, but we won’t elaborate on that for spoiler-y reasons), but it doesn’t take long to understand why Triet’s film was given the Cannes seal of approval. With a two-and-a-half hour runtime, this is a taut, stirring film that may not offer clean, simple answers to the questions it posits, but it’s a rewarding experience nonetheless. 

Sandra Hüller plays Sandra, a novelist who is being interviewed by a student at the beginning of the film. Sandra’s husband suddenly begins playing loud music upstairs, and Sandra suggests the interview be postponed while her partially-blind son Daniel takes his guide dog out for a walk. 

anatomy of a fall court
Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

As Daniel returns, he finds his father dead on the driveway, seemingly having fallen to his death. What follows is an arduous investigation and a very public trial as we ponder whether Samuel fell by accident, jumped or if Sandra pushed him in a fit of rage. 

Anatomy Of A Fall is, more than anything, a procedural. We’re not so privy to the police investigation, but Triet digs her teeth into the legal proceedings as Sandra is put on trial for potentially murdering her husband. The couple’s history unfolds mostly in anecdotes, and only one particularly nasty argument is shown in flashback as the court listens to a secret recording and Sandra relives a moment she’s clearly not proud of. 

Hüller, who also stars in Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust-drama The Zone Of Interest, has the difficult job of carrying the film on her shoulders. She is both the protagonist and the antagonist of the story, a potential victim or a villain and Triet constantly keeps us guessing and re-evaluating our loyalty towards her. Hüller plays Sandra straight and ordinary. The central question seems to be, if someone as mundane as Sandra might be capable of murder, what hope is there for the rest of us? 

While Anatomy Of A Fall arguably didn’t need to be two and a half hours long, it flows remarkably well. The film really comes alive when we get to the courtroom and experts are brought in to analyse blood splatters. You see, it’s a certainty that the man killed himself because the blood doesn’t lie. Except, the next expert claims the exact opposite, that he was pushed violently because again, the blood doesn’t lie. 

There is an elegance to Triet’s direction and Anatomy Of A Fall as a whole. While it’s perhaps not quite a thriller, it’s certainly both thrilling and tense as we witness lawyers bickering and trying to outsmart each other in convincing the judge and jury of their arguments. Triet’s filmmaking is precise, but the real tension comes from the gender and marital dynamics. While I wish that we saw more of them rather than simply speculated, Anatomy Of A Fall is a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking drama. 

Anatomy Of A Fall is in cinemas 10 November. 

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