Justine Triet’s intense new film “Anatomy of a Fall” is affecting and magnetic. Pensive and complex with its own somber rhythm, this dense narrative will keep you guessing well after the end credits.
Sandra (Sandra Huller) is a writer living with her instructor husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) and their son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) in a remote area of France.
After Sandra completes a book interview with a publication while competing with cacophony of some steel drum music, she goes to her room and falls asleep, only to wake up an hour later to discover her husband bloody and dead in the snow. Daniel screams in horror by his side.
The police arrive.
The authorities tell Sandra that she is in for an exhausting round of questioning. She hires a lawyer, Vincent (Swann Arlaud) who is a former boyfriend /acquaintance. Vincent tells Sandra a hard truth, that no matter what she does, she is and will always remain the prime suspect in her husband’s death.
An idyllic rural life, Sam and Sandra did not have. Sam was clinically depressed feeling hemmed in by Sandra’s more successful life, blaming himself for his son’s accident resulting in blindness.
This is a court drama, a Hitchcockian version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Huller has never been better, and her character is full to the brim with vexing demons. Sandra is a woman who demands absolute control. Though she clearly loves her family, she definitely seems under the sway of something pathological.
There is one hair-raising scene — involving the family dog and Daniel overrun with guilt — that is not for the faint.
At times, the film feels overwhelmed with detail: Sandra as a victim of her heritage, her infidelity, the protection of her son and her lust for success. These conditions combined with Samuel’s ego, his need to escape, his French patriotism, his guilt, and his own ambitions as an artist. The perspectives in this story are legion, but there are no answers.
As frustrating as it is immersing, with a certain steel drum melody that is an actual character in the film, “Anatomy of a Fall” is an almost sadistically teasing procedural, it is also knotty and nuanced, with an escalation of shady and eerie details.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org