Accident or murder? This profound movie must figure that out.
The death of a loved one is heartbreaking beyond measure, especially if it has to be a painful one. It regards a struggling writer named Samuel (Samuel Theis), who has fallen to his death from his study. Now that I’m writing this review of “Anatomy of a Fall,” I started thinking back to when my father found out his good buddy fell off a deck and broke his neck. It’s conceivable his heart gave out because he drank and smoked, but regardless it was heartbreaking for him, my family, and everyone he knew. So, it’s impossible to acknowledge how unhappy his blind son is in the opening scenes.
But this death can either be labeled an accident or a murder, and that’s why his wife ends up on trial and why their son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) is a sole witness. Even though he’s blind, he can still hear and feel the reactions.
The wife Sandra Voyter (Sandra Huller) is German, but mostly speaks English, and her French is a little rusty. And she also relocated with her husband to his hometown in France. According to an interview for Deadline, co-writer/director Justine Triet explained that “The fact she is a German who speaks English and tries to speak French that creates lots of masks and clouds the issue, creating more confusion around who she is.” So, only seeing part of the trailer, I was surprised the movie went in this direction, not that I’m complaining. Which I’m not.
Anyway, Sandra is accused of being her husband’s killer, and enlists help from her lawyer Vincent (Swann Arlaud). But of course, the trial gets complicated, when her previous arguments with Samuel spark questions and Daniel struggles to get the facts straight.
Now, I can’t spoil any secrets, although I am glad that 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” is not a cover version of a classic song I have yet to hear. After all, DJ Shadow’s “Nobody Speaks” features a sample of Caterina Valente’s “Ol’ man River.” The reason I’m mentioning this is because Samuel likes to listen to an instrumental cover version of it full blast while he works, and that serves an important piece of evidence during the investigation. Or did that loud music make things harder?
Anyway, I can’t spoil any secrets, but I can tell you, it all comes within question. Could the wife be innocent or guilty? Could the son be involved somehow? I hope not for either of them. Would the court believe the woman’s innocence? It all depends on how she testifies, and what she tells them.
As with “Toni Erdmann,” Huller displays the right amount of emotions and convictions within her character. She deals with anger and sadness, especially when we see a big scene when she and her husband break down about his decisions. She speaks well in any language, and she plays characters with vulnerabilities. “Anatomy of a Fall” continues that wisely.
The film’s revelation happens to be in the form of Graner, who cuts back on the movie child cliches and more about his feelings. He’s unhappy about his father’s death and his blindness, and he feels pressured in court, because of how his memory keeps changing. And he also has a dog named Snoop (you know the reference), whom he tries an experiment on to prove a point. Again, I can’t say what it is. But I can tell you it’s heartbreaking.
These are two of the finest performances in a movie that overcomes the cynicism, and is drawn with complicity by Triet and co-writer Arthur Harari. It’s another entertaining courtroom drama this fall, along with “The Burial” and “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Actually, this is the most entertaining of the genre this fall. And it’s one that keeps us thinking and guessing.
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.