Cast : Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Samuel THEIS
thriller / France / Color / status : completed / French, English, German / General Audience / long feature-film / All Rights / International catalogue
For the past year, Sandra, a German writer, her French husband Samuel, and their eleven-year-old son Daniel have lived a secluded life in a remote town in the French Alps. When Samuel is found dead in the snow below their chalet, the police question whether he committed suicide or was killed. Samuel’s death is treated as suspicious, presumed murder, and Sandra becomes the main suspect. Little by little the trial becomes not just an investigation of the circumstances of Samuel’s death, but an unsettling psychological journey into the depths of Sandra and Samuel’s conflicted relationship.
In this Hitchcockian procedural thriller, Justine Triet (Sibyl, Cannes 2019 Competition, In Bed With Victoria) creates a complex and fascinating heroine, questioning common beliefs about relationships and truth.
“Sandra Hüller shines. A cerebral smash that might finally bring the Best Actress award that its star, Sandra Hüller, was cruelly denied in 2016. Hüller’s screen magnetism cannot be denied. A ferociously intelligent and deceptively playful drama that uses genre as a Trojan horse through which to tell the story of a normal family’s sudden implosion. The director’s masterstroke is to subvert the pleasures of genre convention to explore issues of schadenfreude and plain morbid human curiosity. Quite brilliantly unsatisfying, in a subtle and slyly Hitchcockian way that interrogates the whole notion of “satisfaction” in the context of a murder trial. And at its heart is Hüller’s performance, a haunting and emotional tour de force that stays long in the mind and puts her right up there in the top tier of European talent.”
“Hüller dazzles. Triet’s piercing film holds the ambient tensions and illogical loose ends of domestic life against the harsh and rational light of a legal system that searches for order in chaos. Triet once again plays with judicial frameworks, not moral ones, painting in shades of grey by leaving Sandra’s innocence an open and lingering question. Whereas the filmmaker’s earlier work tracked legal dispassion and personal collapse along parallel narrative tracks, Anatomy of a Fall overlays them to devastating effect, surpassing the modest pleasures of a cerebral whodunnit by recognizing that the family tragedy is the same no matter what. Anatomy of a Fall is never really about the trial, and doesn’t only explore the chasm between empiricism and emotion; at its searing best, the film tracks family destruction with cold precision.”
“Thought-provoking. A kind of “Gone Girl” in reverse. Triet has taken a familiar genre (the courtroom drama) and turned that format on its head, much as fellow French helmer Alice Diop did the year before with “Saint Omer” — though the two couldn’t be more different in approach. Triet assumes a more jagged, pseudo-documentary style, taking two and a half hours to excavate and unpack the secrets of this hypothetical couple.we follow this uncommonly mature film through all its layers, seeing rarely expressed truths about 21st-century relationships in its trajectory.”
“A director and actress in peak form. Sandra Hüller is brilliant, sensational. An exciting step forward for a filmmaker who seems primed for greater international recognition. A gripping and gratifyingly rich drama: part legal procedural, part portrait of a complicated woman, part snapshot of a marriage on the brink and part coming-of-age narrative. Above all, about the essential unknowability of a person, of a relationship, and the perilous impossibility of trying to understand the stories we tell others about ourselves and those we, as individuals and a society, tell ourselves about others. A bracing corrective to the sensationalism and glibness of so much crime-themed content these days. A nuanced work, resisting the teasing, Kabuki-like quality that characterizes even “prestige” efforts like HBO’s recent The Staircase. Hüller is such a vivid, precise performer that we understand Sandra, an intellectual who has negotiated the terms of domestic life to make it work for her. Without finger-wagging or grandstanding, Triet points to the uncomfortable necessity of being able to live in, and with, the gray area — for her characters and viewers alike. Guiding us through the morass of elusive memories, ever-evolving accounts and unreliable narrators in this fascinating, deeply intelligent film, she pulls off the trickiest feat of all: earning our complete and total trust.”
The Hollywood Reporter
“There is a bracing and chilly high-mindedness about Justine Triet’s psychothriller. Sandra Hüller’s calm directness as an actor is what gives the film its texture, substance and emotional force. She anchors it in a kind of accessible reality: we naturally sympathise with her, and yet Triet shows us that she is capable of transparent lies, lies which are almost credible because Hüller is such a plausible personality. The film does not signpost the traditional twists and turns and dramatic reversals, but keeps a cool distance, letting us wonder if Sandra is guilty or not, and we are kept guessing until the end. It’s a lowkey, almost downbeat drama, but with something invigoratingly cerebral.”
★★★★ The Guardian
“A portrait of a complicated woman is conveyed intriguingly through the medium of a courtroom drama in Justine Triet’s rewarding film. A twisty, thought-provoking drama. Turns a ‘did she? didn’t she?’ drama into a story about how we read people we don’t know and the prejudices, conscious or unconscious, that drive these readings. A compelling, nuanced central performance from Sandra Hüller.”
“[A] gripping masterpiece. Triet is a master of comedy with the confidence to use every tool at her disposal and create breathtaking contrasts and reversals, taking advantage of the full magnitude of her films’ self-imposed stylistic rules without ever breaking them. Astonishingly natural and unaffected performances from the entire cast. Triet’s breathtakingly intelligent and subtly perverse masterpiece takes the long way through the cold and the snow to address, in nuanced but never ambiguous terms, the ineffable and irreducible mystery at the heart of deep relationships — between two partners, between parents and their children, between words and the world.”
“Justine Triet delivers a masterful, multi-layered and suspenseful film about a couple and the judicialization of their private lives, carried by the exceptional Sandra Hüller. Triet exceeds at controlling the incredibly subtle unfurling of an astounding story, at delicately, gradually, meticulously rooting around, with stupefying precision, in the most unexpected recesses, without ever imposing her own viewpoint or morals on the audience. Wonderfully adept at judging atmospheres, Justine Triet paints a highly accurate picture depicting the blurred line between theories of manipulation and the sincerely complex nature of the case. Ensuring the credibility, accessibility and lifelike nature of her sophisticated and unique approach, the director (who wrote the remarkable screenplay with Arthur Harari) delivers a very high-calibre work, also exploring, in echo, the fine line separating the real from the imaginary, as well as the gaze of others, the influence of images and our protective instincts. These themes, alongside many others, are examined and intertwined in an enchanting film of prodigious richness, which is as subtle as it is powerful.”