Justine Triet's latest film is well worthy of that Palme d'Or...
Director: Justine Triet
Starring: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Antoine Reinartz
Running time: 151 minutes
This year's Palme d’Or went to Justine Triet’s crime-courtroom thriller Anatomy of a Fall, making her only the second ever woman to win the prestigious award.
It is rare example of a film that will truly keep you guessing until the end, perhaps even after the credits roll. Set in the picturesque snowy hills of Grenoble, it centres around a family trio living in a secluded wooden chalet, one you’d expect to find on a Christmas card. Their equilibrium is soon disrupted, though, when the son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) comes home to find his dad Samuel (Samuel Theis) lying outside in a pool of blood-stained snow.
Prior to this, we see Sandra (Sandra Hüller) sipping her wine while being interviewed about her latest book. However, this is abruptly cut short when an obnoxiously loud instrumental of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P starts blaring from upstairs, playing on a loop. With clear intentions to make his presence known, Samuel puts a stop to the interview. Sandra heads upstairs, and Daniel leaves to take Snoop, their dog, on a walk, and on his return is when he makes the gruesome discovery.
Triet cleverly keeps the ambiguity, asking the audience to question everything themselves, and ultimately make up their own minds
It is protocol to suspect the only other person who was home, the wife, as marital disputes leading to homicide are far more common than random attacks. Sandra is quick to profess her innocence to her lawyer Vincent (Swann Arlaud), who reminds her that, in the eyes of the law, “that doesn’t matter.” So forth, we embark on a slow-burning, compelling narrative to uncover the mystery.
The main bulk of the film takes place within the four walls of the courtroom, though it is far from tedious or minimising. Within the court, we are introduced to an overtly unlikeable character, the prosecuting lawyer (Antoine Reinartz). He uses tactics of intimidation to enforce to the jury that Sandra is culpable, intentionally murdering her husband in a domestic dispute. As the trial unfolds, new information comes to light about their complex marriage. It transpires that their relationship has been on a downfall ever since Daniel was involved in a motorbike accident, leaving him with a severe visual impairment.
In an unlikely turn of events, it is both twelve-year-old Daniel and obedient Snoop the border collie who play a key part within the trial. Daniel recounts flashbacks with his dad, alongside conducting his own ‘experiment’ which pushes him to testify before the end.
Triet cleverly keeps the ambiguity, asking the audience to question everything themselves, and ultimately make up their own minds. The issue, as often is the case, is that Samuel cannot tell us the truth, so the jury is left to decide in an impossible ‘he said, she said’ battle. Anatomy of a Fall will leave you questioning the balance of justice, and whether it can truly exist when there is no definitive answer.
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