Anatomy Of A Fall: The BRWC Review

Anatomy Of A Fall: The BRWC Review

Anatomy Of A Fall: The BRWC Review. By Joe Muldoon.

As the body of Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis) plummets from his attic window to the snowy ground below, so do the lives of Sandra (Sandra Hüller) and their visually impaired 11-year-old son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner). Sandra has been interviewed by a young student in her kitchen, the unseen Samuel has begun to blast disruptively loud music as he works upstairs, and Daniel has taken their dog Snoop (Messi) out for a walk – the border collie was awarded with the esteemed Palm Dog at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival for his moving performance.

As Daniel trudges through the snow back towards the family chalet, Snoop fusses over the lifeless body of his owner, his head bloodily wounded. The mortified tween cries for his mother, and so begins the worst period of their lives. The circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death being decidedly suspicious, Sandra finds herself in handcuffs and is soon the subject of a murder trial – has she killed her husband? There are three possibilities: 1) he fell, 2) he threw himself, or 3) he was pushed.



We leap a year forward, and Sandra’s trial is now underway, her legal defence being provided by her lawyer friend Vincent (Swann Arlaud). The sole witness at the centre of the trial is Daniel, meaning the defendant’s fate potentially rests with the testimony of an unreliable witness – her son, no less. The prosecution’s dissection is not so much of Samuel’s fall to the ground, but of his relationship; the trial is closer to Marriage Story than it is Anatomy of a Murder.

It is revealed that Samuel secretly recorded numerous conversations with his wife, some banal and some harshly argumentative, and the picture of a fractured marriage is painted, much to the defendant’s embarrassment. Sandra urges the prosecution and jury to trust her that the intrusive recordings represent a tiny fragment of a larger story. With compelling cases being made by both parties, we are as unsure as the jury with regards to the truth of the case – something that is cleverly kept from us until the film’s dying embers.

The tendency towards theatrics and impassioned outbursts is resisted, the melodrama prevalent throughout many of the most quintessential courtroom dramas being dialled down to a minimum. The film instead relies upon the mighty strength of the writing, for which director Justine Triet and her partner Arthur Harari are responsible. The machinations of the French legal process is subject to a forensic level of analysis, the justice system itself put on a trial of its own.

Hüller’s performance is simply fantastic, her steadily stoic demeanour preventing any read being made upon her thoughts and feelings. Though German, her mother tongue is never uttered, the dialogue instead being delivered through a mix of English and French – a home advantage is never granted of Sandra, her freedom partly reliant upon her linguistic abilities in her second and third languages. Antoine Reinartz is marvellous in his role as the leader of the prosecution, his fierce delivery and eloquent oration both viscerally frustrating and technically impressive.

Triet’s drama is complex yet not convoluted, dramatic yet not histrionic, lengthy yet not bloated. It is an examination not only of murder, but also of marriage, an examination not only of human fallibility, but also of institutional imperfections, an examination not only of grief, but also of acceptance. Few films of its kind are so thorough and far-reaching in their scope and concerns, and Triet and Harari make it look easy. Though the facts of the story are shrouded within a murky grey area, this fact about the film is clear: it is a masterpiece.

By Joe Muldoon


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