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‘Anatomy of a fall’: Justine Triet’s judicial drama consecrates Sandra Hüller as the great actress of Cannes 2023

'Anatomy of a fall': Justine Triet's judicial drama consecrates Sandra Hüller as the great actress of Cannes 2023

As demonstrated in his brief and solid filmography, Justine Triet he is very interested in indefatigable forces that shake our existence and they determine the relationship we maintain with others: from work to psychoanalysis or institutions, such as the judicial system.

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After tackling that last ground in the rom-com Victoria’s cases (2016), the French filmmaker returns to court with Anatomy of a fall. His fourth feature film is one of the best films in competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2023 and the consecration of its protagonist, Sandra Hüller, as the great actress of this edition, who adds her incandescent performance to the one she develops, in a completely opposite register, in The Zone of Interest.

Everything in the movie Jonathan Glazer were icy containment and distancing here it becomes a magnificent and overwhelming display of emotions in her role as a successful writer who is put on trial after the death of her husband. Was it an accident that he fell off the top of her mountain house? A suicide? Or was it she who pushed him to his death?

That is the fatal fall whose nature it will be investigated and questioned from all possible angles and hypotheses at the trial held one year after the events. The litigation itself occupies most of the lengthy 2.5 hour footage that Triet dedicates to tell the story in a fascinating way because of what is contradictory: at the same time scrupulously methodical and leaving wide gaps in the story uncovered or open to the interpretation of an unreliable narrator.

On the one hand, there is the objective reality of what happened, which is supposedly intended to be achieved in the trial with the collaboration of experts and witnesses. On the other, the enveloping and hypnotically articulated rhetoric from lawyers and prosecutors that they really cover the persuasive path to achieve their victory; in the verdict and on the facts themselves. In this balance, Triet’s narration moves with fascinating virtuosity.

A procedural for the Palme d’Or

The filmmaker gives her actors a devilish ball of long dialogues riddled with ambiguities that they have to sell with confidence and aplomb. Leading the way is Sandra Hüller, whose innocence or guilt the film doesn’t even try to question. It is enough to listen to the arguments of each side of the trial to change sides in perception, as if you were in a tennis match.

The talent of the German actress, who shone with her own light in that Cannes Toni Erdman (2016), is beyond any doubt and is in charge of reminding us of it in each shot. Whether restrained or exploding with rage; stoic or writhing in sadness. But it is also very well accompanied by an excellent cast of French actors too rarely seen as Swann Arlaud, Samuel Theis either Antoine Reinartz.

Justine Triet is a excellent acting director and this is his film most devoted to words, eloquence and argumentative art. Unravel the truth? That is a secondary question before the push of the relentless legal machinery willing to expose the privacy of the accused for the sake of an objectivity that does not contemplate modesty or psychological exhaustion.

Although the approach of the different hypotheses about what happened is reminiscent of the true crime miniseries of Antonio Campos The Staircase (2022), anatomy of a fall belongs to the recent line of magnificent judicial dramas of French cinema -The girl with the bracelet (Stéphane Demoustier, 2019), Saint Omer (Alice Diop, 2022)- dedicated to detailing with narrative fascination the strengths, limits and weaknesses of legal processes. It would not be an unexpected Palme d’Or, far from it.

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