Anatomy Of A Fall – a Gallic courtroom drama that shows how it should be done

October 11, 2023
2 mins read


Anatomy Of A Fall FILM REVIEW

Eleven-year-old Daniel’s dad just fell out of a second-story window. Was it murder? GARY STEEL finds out if his mum did it.

It would probably be going overboard to suggest that Anatomy Of A Fall rewrote the courtroom drama for the 21st century, but director Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winning epic is certainly a striking attempt.

Sandra (played by German actor Sandra Huller) is accused of murder when her husband is found by their 11-year-old vision-impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner), dead with a gash to his head almost directly under the second-floor window of their snowbound French chalet.

For some, the film’s epic 150-minute running time will prove an endurance test, especially given that there’s little action and a lot of talking, much of it in the courtroom. But it’s refreshing in an age of episodic streaming TV shows with annoyingly sparse dialogue to watch a movie crammed full of intelligent conversation to match its nuanced performances. (Just make sure you empty your bladder before the film starts).


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There’s something vaguely Hitchcockian about the way it cleverly develops the characters, reshaping our understanding of their personalities, their motives and their likely actions as the court case develops. However, Anatomy Of A Fall eschews any old-fashioned dramatic flourishes in favour of – as the name blatantly states – a detailed and almost forensic presentation of the court case.

There are several factors at play that all have a bearing on our enjoyment of the film. The cinematography is lushly French, which gives it an intimate feel. Having said that, the camera never shies away at showing unflattering shots of the characters, which gives it a sense of authenticity. Even the courtroom scenes have a kind of Gallic intimacy to them, despite the seemingly realistic procedural way they play out. At times, Anatomy Of A Fall feels like a French/German/Nordic three-way, with dollops of French sensuality, some Teutonic severity and a little Nordic noir all thrown into the mix. Certainly, Huller plays the inscrutable and possibly raving mad Sandra with Germanic aplomb, speaking mostly English but having to speak French in court whenever she can manage it.

Outside of the court scenes, we see Sandra being coached by her lawyer (and former lover) Vincent (Swann Arlaud) and the innocent Daniel barely coping with the enormity of the unfolding tragedy, which could easily lead to not only losing his dad but also his mum to the penal system. Ultimately, the verdict hinges on the boy, who delays the case with a surprise statement.

It might be long, but Anatomy Of A Fall doesn’t put a foot wrong, and really shows up a lot of streaming TV whodunnits with its superior writing and delicious subtlety.


+ Anatomy Of A Fall screens at independent cinemas from 12 October.  

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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