My other favorite this year along with “The zone of interest” is “Anatomy of a fall” (“Anatomie d’une chute”), directed by Justine Triet. It’s a courtroom drama around a writer’s sudden death at his chalet. His wife (Sandra Hüller) is also a writer. The disorder of their relationship, their child, who became blind following an accident that the father agonizes over, the woman’s need for space, her liaisons. At first considered a suicide, doubts are raised about that the death, the woman’s involvement becomes plausible once the inquiry begins.
Triet co-wrote the film with her partner Arthur Harari specifically with actress Sandra Hüller in mind, and it’s not hard to understand why, Hüller is a gifted actress, she is also opaque, it’s hard to get a good read on her and I spent the entire film wondering whether she had killed her husband or not.
Courtroom dramas are fascinating because they oppose the court’s absolute need for the truth with the imperfection, and sometimes the fiction, that witnesses bring with their testimony.
The boy, about seven, is aggrieved by his father’s death and then, when his father’s passing becomes a suspicious death, after briefly being spun as suicide by the wife’s lawyer (Swann Arlaud), he discovers the truth about his father and about his parents’ relationship, that they fought, that the father considered himself a failure, that his mother dominated their couple, that her career came first, insofar as this was perceived by her compagnon.
Years earlier the father was expected to pick up his son at school but asked the nanny to fetch him instead. The boy was run over by a motorcycle while they walked home together, and the impact knocked off his optic nerve, rendering him almost totally blind.
Several dynamics are at play which make the film such a worthwhile watch: the child, whose mature approach makes him the central witness before the court. He’s thoughtful and reserved, there’s a lot going on behind those milky-white eyes. The relationship between the parents, she’s an alpha and does what she wants, whether it is pursuing other relationships or reserving enough time for her writing, he’s a depressive and resentful, his guilt over the accident a contributor factor to his depression.
Two other points should be made here : the exploration of the link between truth and fiction, the truth of our existence, and the fiction that the man and the woman write and the books they publish. There’s also the truth that exists by default inside a courtroom. The people gathered together during at trial need the truth, and yet eyewitnesses, in any courtroom, will give their own, fictionalized accounts, in circumvention of reality. Finally, what is confidentiality, what should remain private and goes public? One key argument between the man and the woman is recorded. Physical violence occurs at the end, but it’s not necessarily what we think. That audio ends up in the courtroom and is listened to by all, the disorder of a couple’s waning relationship goes from being private to being public. It’s those opposing forces, coupled by a filmmaker at the top of her game and a mesmerizing Sandra Hüller that make “Anatomy of a Fall” such a pleasurable film to watch, one that could very well go home with a prize.