Anatomy of a Fall

Captivating, tense, and masterful - 8.5/10

by Jad Sammour

Watched on November 15th, 2023.

When I was seated to watch the film, two men walked in a couple of minutes late and sat right next to me. They were totally nonchalant and it shows that they probably had no interest in the film. I noticed them talking between each other throughout the film and I saw, as the story progressed, how quickly absorbed into the film they were becoming. They went from 0 interest to total investment and satisfaction by the end of the film. The entire theater seemed to have had a good time.

I was surprised when I discovered that Anatomy of a Fall was getting a release in Lebanese theaters. The film has been highly acclaimed by audiences and critics alike after its premiere at the Cannes film festival earlier this year. Of course, being the cinephile that I am, I had to check it out. And checked it out I did… and I never checked out, not even for a single moment during its 2.5-hour runtime.
You’re strapped in for 2.5 hours of sharp filmmaking, translating an intelligent script performed by A-class actors – even the dog, that damn dog is such a great actor! I really want to keep the review sparse on details because the film is so rich on details and developing its ideas that are best picked up by the viewer experiencing the film moment by moment, shot by shot.

From the get-go, the film solidifies itself as grounds for good use of filmmaking tools. It is purely cinematic, and I do not use that word – cinematic – lightly. Justine Triet uses every tool in her arsenal to tell that story, to extent where the story becomes a framing tool for a thorough examination of the film’s core themes without it feeling forced or too talkative - it’s just seamlessly integrated and justified within the narrative. It is incredible how ideas that are somewhat hard to define come out through heated conversations and well-staged scenes: can you really know a person? Who knows a person best? What is the line between truth and subjectivity, and which one actually matters? How should we examine the truth? Can we understand a person by taking bits and pieces from their life? Is the “objective” recording of an event truly objective? Can you recreate the truth from pieces of data? These sound like dense ideas, and they are, as they have been puzzling humanity for a really long time, yet the film juggles them from scene to scene seamlessly and uses the narrative to question them and make solid points. This is mostly left for the courtroom scenes which, saying they drive you to the edge of your seat, would be an understatement. And above that, you’re watching the intensity of these events unfolding from the point of the view of the couple’s child in many scenes and moments, and there the film spins another perspective on the whole matter and brings forth heartbreaking ideas.

The story seems somewhat familiar, at first. I mean there is nothing special about a woman being held on trial for the suspected murder of her husband; that’s a very familiar outline of a story. But, as the film mentions the difference between an outline and a novel, the general broad strokes of a story and the intricate development and POVs, the film develops the premise beautifully and originally. The film has a lot of dry humor which was a nice addition and it does not take away from the tension and the seriousness of the events. Justine Triet and the cinematographer carefully plot the shots and execute them, using punch-ins and pans that stand-out and feel alien to the film yet emphasize so much and speak volumes. The cast in Anatomy of a Fall is a great fit for the film and do a phenomenal job. The way the actors played off of each other, their performances intercut between great edits and long takes, carries and highlights what is being said, the dynamic between them on full display.

The use of an instrumental cover of the song P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent is genius and becomes like a dreadful motif of the absence of the husband/father, almost like his voice. Brilliant.

I’ve got nothing but praise for Anatomie d’une Chute. It’s one of the best films this year and a very rewarding watch.

I have to mention that the film echoes The Shining in many ways even though it has no horror elements or direct references to it – except mentioning Stephen King once. You have a child named Daniel (Danny?), isolated mountain scenery, family abuse, the death of the father, a writer’s block, a man blaming his failure on his wife, a father feeling guilty about having a hand in hurting his son, and questioning a man’s sanity…. Hello? THE SHINING… Of course, the parallels between Sandra (the female protagonist) and Wendy end when you compare them being beyond a wife and a mother because Sandra would just devour Wendy in one bite.

Go watch this film if you still can.

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