In Anatomy of a Fall, a legal drama with thriller overtones thanks to which she became the third woman to win the Palme d’Or, Justine Triet portrays a novelist who, suspected of the murder of her husband, is judged in the presence of his visually impaired son.
In her previous feature films, The Battle of Solferino (2013), Victoria (2016) and Sybil (2019), Justine Triet seemed to lay, under the guise of dramatic comedy, the foundations of Anatomy of a Fall. Conflicting couple relationships, toxic masculinity, mental load, private life vampirized for the benefit of fiction, professional failure: having explored these themes in sparkling portraits of women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the filmmaker, who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur Harari, returns there to dissect with surgical precision a couple adrift.
Renowned German novelist, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller, excellent) has been living for a year in a chalet in the mountains, a few kilometers from Grenoble, with her husband Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis), ex-professor in London, and their 11-year-old son. years old Daniel (Milo Machado Graner, prodigious), who became visually impaired following an accident. In this Franco-German family, we use English to communicate.
While hosting a student (Camille Rutherford), Sandra is forced to postpone the interview when a cover of 50 Cent’s P. I. M. P. by the German group Bacao Rhythm
Surprisingly, she shoots certain shots at dog’s height, matching the animal’s nervousness, as if he were the only being to have guessed what had happened, as if he was trying to communicate it to his younger self. master. The viewer then understands that the presence of the dog is not incidental and that it will become a key element in the future.
A year later, Sandra, suspected of Samuel’s murder, is tried in the presence of her son who has been assigned a social worker (Jehnny Beth). Defended by a friend, the reserved Master Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud, impeccable), Sandra, a woman of words, will have to plead her case in a language that she has difficulty mastering, that of Molière, facing the formidable attorney general (Antoine Reinartz, arrogant as desired). The sole witness to the events preceding the tragedy, Daniel will have to choose his side.
When she does not directly borrow the child’s point of view on the assembly, it is through the latter’s imagination that she brings back painful moments from the past, such as this argument between her parents that Samuel recorded it and the prosecution presents it to incriminate Sandra.
If it evokes Force Majeure, by Ruben Östlund, for its hostile winter landscapes and its anxiety-inducing closed doors, Anatomy of a Fall is also similar with its brilliant and nuanced analysis of the power relations existing within a couple. Like the couple in Fair Play, by Chloe Domont, the wife’s career is on the rise and the husband’s is in decline.
The harsh and cruel words that Sandra and Samuel exchange reflect the envy, disappointment and frustration that both feel. From one line to the next, the roles are reversed, going from executioner to victim, and vice versa. Rarely authentic, the couple’s confrontation makes it impossible to know who is wrong and who is right. And when the verdict falls, total ambiguity reigns. The spectator has the great pleasure of finding his truth there.