TIFF 2023: “Anatomy of a Fall” (2023)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Predicting what unfolds in one’s life, not to mention within a marriage, can be a daunting task. It can either be a drama-filled spectacle or a blissful journey. At least, that’s the perception from an outsider’s perspective. However, the truth behind closed doors remains privy only to those who reside within those walls.

The intricacy of well-crafted characters is a skill not every writer can master. It’s a delicate interplay of layer upon layer, where perception and presumption walk hand in hand. What you think you know often differs vastly from the facts and the unadulterated truth. This is precisely why Justine Triet’s masterfully written and directed “Anatomy of a Fall” operates on multiple levels. It’s akin to an endless roller coaster of emotions, leaving you pondering whether you’re a mere observer or an active participant.

The narrative revolves around the renowned writer Sandra (portrayed by Sandra Hüller), who finds herself in the spotlight as the prime suspect in her husband Samuel’s (played by Samuel Theis) untimely demise. It all commences with the chilling discovery of Samuel’s lifeless body sprawled on the snow, made by their 11-year-old son, Daniel (skillfully portrayed by Milo Machado Graner). Initially brushed off as a tragic accident, a deeper investigation reveals that the circumstances surrounding the man’s fall bear the hallmarks of a potential homicide. Sandra vehemently denies any involvement and secures legal representation, but this is merely the inception of a dramatic saga where her most intimate life details will be dissected in the public eye, in the courtroom, and by countless others.

Contrary to initial assumptions, this isn’t a typical domestic violence case. At first glance, Sandra’s demeanor hints at possible self-defense, yet moments later, she appears entirely innocent. Your perception of her character undergoes a profound transformation throughout this meticulously crafted narrative, one that will have you teetering on the edge of your seat. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on your feet throughout the film, for it’s the kind of cinematic experience that elicits shock, fascination, and awe at the artistry of storytelling in its prime.

The screenplay, penned by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, is nothing short of exquisite, granting its characters the space to evolve and deepen. Each character, notably Sandra, Daniel, and Samuel, constitutes a vital piece of a puzzle whose resolution eludes you until the very end. Sandra Hüller’s portrayal of the charismatic writer is nothing short of astonishing. Words fail to capture the depth of her performance; it might easily be deemed a defining moment in her career. However, let’s not forget that Sandra Hüller has graced the screen with countless memorable characters, and this one joins the ranks of her illustrious portrayals.

In summary, “Anatomy of a Fall” offers a poignant exploration of its characters. Daniel, for instance, emerges as a young boy who could become the key witness for the prosecution, but a closer look reveals that he’s a ticking time bomb. The film delves into the lives of three individuals— one deceased and two surviving—navigating a tempestuous sea with the pivotal question still unanswered: was Samuel’s demise a result of foul play or an unfortunate accident? Was there a witness, and if so, what did they see? The questions abound, and the answers are as elusive as ever. Brace yourself for a cinematic journey of a lifetime, for films like “Anatomy of a Fall” come around once in a generation. It’s a heart-pounding, suspenseful experience that will leave an indelible mark on your memory.

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