Director: Justine Triet
Writers: Justine Triet, Arthur Harari
Cast: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado-Graner
Duration: 150 mins
A young boy (a phenomenal Milo Machado-Graner) walks back to his alpine home and discovers the body of his father lying in the snow, blood pooled around his head. It is presented as the central question of the text: Did Samuel (Samuel Theis) commit suicide or did Sandra (a magnificent Sandra Hüller) push him out of the attic window? But as Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall unspools its text, it reveals that the central question is something else entirely.
It matters to the audience — and certainly the characters — if Sandra is found to be guilty of murder. But Triet’s rich screenplay delves into all sorts of uncomfortable questions related to Samuel’s death; questions that drive a sharp stake through societal norms and conventions around the institution of marriage.
In a heteronormative, patriarchal world, the institution of marriage has spoken and unspoken rules of governance, a code of ethics that both husband and wife are supposed to abide by until at least one of them takes their final breath. But those expectations are not the same for both partners and it becomes quite clear that Sandra isn’t just on trial for potentially murdering her husband. She is on trial for her perceived performance as both a wife and a mother.
In its interrogation of marriage as an institution, Anatomy also happens upon another truth: There often isn’t a definitive truth to many questions. The crime genre of storytelling sometimes speaks to the audience’s desire to know the truth of who did it, what happened, how, etc. But some of the most satisfying crime stories are the ones that speak to the human conditions that gave occasion to the alleged act of crime in the first place. People are rarely simple. Our relationships even more so. And especially the truth.