The review of Anatomy of a fall, film by Justine Triet awarded in Cannes with the Palme d’Or. Sandra Hüller towers in a thriller in which the balance of power in a couple is investigated.
The morbidity with which we watch programs in which shocking murders are reconstructed using accurate models (yes, in Italy Porta a porta above all, which is almost 30 years old and continues to garner ratings) is a symptom of several things. First of all, tragedy has an irresistible charm, because it confronts us with the dark side of life, something we are terrified of and at the same time can only arouse curiosity in us. On the other hand, it is a more or less unconscious desire for order and certainty. Gathering evidence, seeking truth gives us a sense of control. It is also for this reason that the crime genre has never known times of crisis. And never before has it experienced such a flourishing period, fragmenting itself into infinite podcasts, TV series and documentaries. In a sea of similar offerings, Justin Triet, awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, has found a way to use this type of story in a new and interesting way. There review by Anatomy of a fall starts with this awareness: we are not dealing with a simple thriller.
The texture of Anatomy of a fall seems the most classic of crime stories: the successful writer Sandra (Sandra Hueller) is doing an interview with a student. As they talk, it loops at super loud volume P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg. It is her husband, Vincent (Swann Arlaud), who, from another room, thus manifests her conflict with the woman. Due to the loud noise, Sandra is forced to interrupt the meeting. A little later, the couple’s son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), returning from a walk with the dog, finds his father’s body in the snow. He fell from the second floor of the house. What happened? The film immediately confronts us with only two options: either it is murder or suicide. And, in the first case, Sandra is the prime suspect.
After this beginning in which the facts fall like an avalanche, Anatomy of a fall becomes a trial film: Sandra is called to answer for her relationship with Vincent in court, to understand whether or not she was the one who brought down the man. In the courtroom, her relationship is torn apart and scrutinized in minute detail, revealing completely unbalanced couple dynamics. And this time she is the woman who holds the power.
Anatomy of a couple
During the investigation we discover that the relationship between Sandra and Vincent was more than in crisis: it was unbalanced on several fronts. First of all on the field of language: she German, he French, they met in London and for this reason the common ground is English. However, tired of being just a professor, when instead she is a successful writer, he moved the whole family to her native country, forcing her to test herself with less familiar sounds.
Then on the sexual one: Sandra, from what we know, is much freer than her husband. And finally in the relationship with his son: Vincent has offered to educate him at home, thus sacrificing much of the time to devote to his novel, which he never manages to finish. There’s more: the man feels the greatest sense of guilt towards his son. Due to an accident, the boy has almost completely lost his sight and he feels partly responsible.
Where Vincent is depressed, bewildered, insecure, Sandra instead is granite, lucid, even ruthless: without any false acquiescence she reproaches the man for not having enough will, for being the architect of his own unhappiness. In Anatomy of a Fall there is an interesting reversal of roles: it is more frequent that in a couple it is the woman who sacrifices herself and her aspirations in favor of domestic life, while the man pursues personal success. Here it is exactly the opposite, but the result does not change: those who are left behind suffer and it is their children who pay the price.
Through this classic crime story, the regista Justin Triet it speaks to us of the relationship between men and women and of the increasingly evident change, at least in Western society, of the dynamics of power in the couple. More than differences between men and women, it seems to tell us that, regardless of gender, the real thing to analyze is who holds the power: if there is too pronounced an imbalance in favor of one of the two, everyone loses. It is no coincidence that Sandra and Vincent’s son is blind: in the end it will be he who will have to give the most important testimony to reach the verdict. And having to discover firsthand that the concept of truth is much more complex than one might think. The only witness unable to tell the story of him is the dog of the house: it is the only pure look and not contaminated by grudges and personal claims. We, like him, are left with frozen blood to see how the director and her mammoth protagonist tell us with surgical precision uncomfortable truths, rarely faced on the screen with such lucidity.
As written in the review of Anatomy of a fall, Justine Triet’s film, awarded the Palme d’Or at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, is a thriller with a classic structure, in which, however, it is the dynamics that are under the magnifying glass of power within a couple. And this time the female character holds the reins of the relationship: a gigantic Sandra Hüller.
Because we like it
- The interpretation of Sandra Hüller.
- The surgical writing of the dialogues.
- The apparently glacial atmosphere is instead ready to explode.
- Those who expect a bloody and action-packed story may be taken aback by the large presence of dialogues.