Film: Anatomy of a Fall
Cast: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner, Samuel Theiss
Director: Justine Triet
Runtime: 151 min
Justine Triet’s brilliantly told courtroom drama, a Palme d’Or winner, that ensues after the death by a suspicious ‘Fall’ of the husband of the central player, author, and translator, Sandra (Sandra Huller), is continuously gripping despite its methodical and meticulous reprisal of what happened that heavy laden snowy day somewhere in a village nestled in the French Alps.
The narrative is a fairly straightforward, unpretentious telling with undercurrents of gender bias, misogyny, and nuanced hits on a justice system that could well be flawed because of its over-reliance on deliberations based on circumstantial rather than concrete proof. The twists of the case unfold naturally as the narrative goes back in time trying to re-enact the scenes of a potential crime and whodunnit. A moral dilemma plays out in the foreground and the method in which Triet resolves it, may not be palatable to all.
Was it an accidental fall, a deliberate push, or a suicide? Since the wife was at home when it happened and the blind son is the one who found the body, the fingers of the law point to the woman as the prime suspect. The narrative plants seeds of doubt in such a nuanced manner that the audience becomes party to them too. How Triet uses three languages to convey sentiment and pathos without deviating from the true nature of its telling, is commendable, to say the least. The narrative plays out with clinical precision. The cinematography by Simon Beaufils augments the steely nature of this telling. The highly effective tone (sans melodrama) is the true hero of this effort. The sound design is just as brilliant. The recurring rewind of a loopy instrumental steel drum cover of 50 cents’ “PIMP” is used to formidable effect.
Sandra Huller is present in almost every frame of the movie and is so compelling a performer that it`s really hard to take your eyes off her. Hers is a mesmerising performance conveying a myriad of emotions without resorting to overkill. Milo Machado Graner as her son, does a fine job conveying the complex emotions of a young boy grappling with a double tragedy in his life.
Samuel Theis as the husband/father and Swann Arlaud as the lawyer are also quite effective in their smaller roles. The narrative may have opened up in matter-of-fact optimization but the thrills are not far off. This unique courtroom drama evokes nail-biting thrills to potent long-term effect. As you leave the theatre you can’t help but dwell on the trauma that the mother and son experience on the path to redemption.