ANATOMY OF A FALL is a gripping French courtroom drama directed by Justine Triet who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur Harari. The film stars as writer, mother, wife, Sandra, who is standing trial for her husband, Samuel’s (Samuel Theis), murder.
But ANATOMY OF A FALL goes much deeper than why Samuel has died. It is an exhaustive dive into this couple, who have a vision-impaired 11-year-old son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner), and their complicated relationship. Upon arriving home after a walk in the snow with his dog, Snoop, Daniel finds his father at the base of their chalet, dead. Following a brief investigation, Sandra is arrested for killing him.
What follows is an intense and riveting trial in which the prosecutor (Antoine Reinartz) dissects with gut-wrenching precision Sandra and Samuel’s marriage. He spares nothing in his evisceration of Sandra and her life choices, putting the blame for their marital woes squarely on her shoulders.
Sandra has elicited the help of her friend, Vincent (Swann Arlaud), whom she has known for years. Vincent has always been enamored with Sandra and believes she is innocent. His tactics in court aren’t nearly as abrasive as the prosecutor’s, but he manages to effectively represent Sandra by dismantling many of the objections against her. But it is Daniel’s incredible --- and insightful --- testimony which shapes the outcome.
Writing --- it’s all about the writing --- is the key to Triet and Harari’s explosive and thrilling screenplay. ANATOMY OF A FALL is definitely dialogue driven and theirs rings true at every level.
In the one very important scene of an argument between Sandra and Samuel, which begins as a sound recording that morphs into action on screen, Hüller and Theis enact a no-holds-barred indictment of their relationship. What begins as a rather innocuous discussion over a few glasses of wine turns ugly and violent with truly engrossing turns from the main protagonists.
Hüller and Triet have worked together before on Triet’s film SIBYL in 2019. She wrote the part of Sandra for Hüller and it’s obvious why when you watch her performance. Hüller is utterly amazing --- as is first-time child star Milo. After an extensive search, he was chosen and immediately threw himself into learning to play the piano. He also had to work with experts in visual impairment to portray Daniel.
And Milo does a beautiful job playing off Snoop, who in real life is a Border Collie named Messi. Snoop plays a pivotal role in Triet’s masterpiece, winning the “Palm Dog” at Cannes, an unofficial, but highly coveted award. Triet has stated that Snoop “was not just another character or some animal running around --- as much a part of the film’s ensemble as any of the other actors.” He is seriously awesome.
Triet, herself, won the Palme d’Or at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May 2023 for ANATOMY OF A FALL. It is by far one of the best films of the year thus far.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
Can a foreign film consisting of about 99.9% dialogue, lasting two and a half hours, captivate its viewing audience? I am happy to report that ANATOMY OF A FALL does just that.
The story of a wife on trial for the death of her husband captured the Palme d’Or and Palm Dog awards at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May. You’re probably asking what the heck is the Palm Dog award?? It was initiated in 2001 to reward the best performance by a canine or group of canines. And in ANATOMY OF A FALL Snoop, the family dog, richly deserves this honor. He is simply amazing.
The human stars of this totally engrossing movie provide jaw-dropping portrayals, beginning with German actor,
, as the accused spouse Sandra Voyter. Her husband Samuel, who is found dead at the base of their chalet in France, has a smaller role seen in the movie’s primary flashback scene. French actor Samuel Theis plays Sandra’s spouse and the two of them spar heatedly in an extended sequence about their relationship, their careers and their 11-year-old son Daniel.
Daniel, who is partially blind from an accident as a four-year-old, is portrayed by 13-year-old Parisian-born actor Milo Machado-Graner. This young man is the key to the outcome of his mother’s trial. His character’s controversial testimony is quietly explosive --- Milo is astonishing in the role.
Other standouts include Antoine Reinartz as the lead prosecutor --- avocat general in French legal terms. His character is one you love to despise. Also very effective is Swann Arlaud as Sandra’s friend and defense attorney, Vincent. Director Justine Triet collaborated with Arthur Harari for the intelligent, compelling script of ANATOMY OF A FALL. Ms. Triet is a highly decorated French filmmaker.
ANATOMY OF A FALL clearly belongs --- first and foremost --- to Ms. Hüller. Her turn is so powerful I wondered if she had won the French equivalent to the Oscar for Best Actress. We won’t know until January 2024 when the César nominations are announced.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!