Anatomy of a Fall: Compelling and inquisitive courtroom drama dissects the essence of facts

Karishma Jangid
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Nominated in multiple categories at the 2024 Oscars, 'Anatomy of a Fall' has now made its debut in India. Justine Triet's courtroom drama explores a tumultuous marriage, an imperfect victim, the agony of the deceased, and more.

In a key scene, the protagonist says, "He was my soulmate. How do I prove that?" Justine Triet’s ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ is a long answer to this complex question. The film unfolds as a court drama, meticulously dissecting a marriage through the perspectives of those privy to only fragments of it. In the process, Triet exposes the complexity of the definition of a ‘fact’. Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), a German author, relocates from London to France with her aspiring French author-husband, Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis). Their visually impaired son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), arrives home one day to discover Samuel lifeless having seemingly fallen from the balcony. Since the autopsy report doesn't provide clear answers, Sandra is put on trial for her husband's death. What unfolds is a detailed drama that questions more than just Sandra's involvement in the events.

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The film's plot is filled with questions, not just rhetorical ones. Through the dialogues and subtly implied messages, the film challenges what qualifies as a fact. Can a single fact or a few facts truly represent the complete truth? Can memories be trusted? Does your art genuinely reflect who you are? Do labels accurately define every aspect of you? Are words spoken in anger a genuine representation of your identity? Whether you're a son or a husband, is it possible to love despite betrayal? Can one genuinely speak on behalf of the deceased? Can you discern the emotions of the dead through audio recordings and people's accounts of them? Truth often extends beyond what meets the eye.

The argument between the prosecutor and the defence features brilliant and thoughtful dialogues aimed at making the audience not confused but empathetic and curious. Antonie Reinartz, playing the prosecutor, and Swann Arlaud, portraying defence lawyer Vincent Renzi, deliver their roles with conviction. It's ironic how the prosecutor and defence, relying solely on investigation, confidently assert their positions, while those being questioned, who actually know the truth, appear nervous and stumbling. The power dynamics and the stakes of the investigation are clearly visible in the palpable tension surrounding the characters.

Interestingly, although we perceive Sandra as a victim of circumstances, she is far from being a perfect victim. She doesn't fit the mould of an ideal mother or wife. Despite her husband's death and the murder accusation, Sandra is frequently seen laughing. Triet plays with traditional roles by reversing them; gender roles are flipped, with Samuel handling household chores while Sandra's career thrives. Vincent sums it up by saying, “Sandra is guilty of succeeding while her husband failed.” Initially, we witness Sandra comforting Daniel, but by the end, it's Daniel who provides solace to Sandra. Both actors deliver outstanding performances. The scenes where Sandra and Samuel argue and where Daniel confides in Marge showcase Sandra and Milo's ability to portray complex emotions seamlessly. The film has a range of emotions but none of them are organised to follow a tone. The chaos and the silence, often indicated using the music, start and stop abruptly. Scenes and camera movements cut and zoom abruptly and repeatedly jolt the viewers and keep them on their toes.

I'll admit, that the lens through which I watched the film was influenced by its Oscar nomination. While viewing, I couldn't help but wonder if it would secure a win. Whether it bags the Academy Award or not, 'Anatomy of a Fall' remains an intriguing watch.

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