Anatomy Of A Fall

Reviewed by Stephen Pye

"Anatomy of a Fall", screened to a near capacity audience on Sunday's Keswick Film Club, is up for three Oscars as well as receiving last year's Palm D'Or. It would certainly win if our outgoing voting slips were determinative! It is, for all its hype, a beautifully cerebral film that from the opening scene draws you in and doesn’t let you go,

Sandra Hüller, best known for her performance in Toni Erdman and appearing next in Jonathan Glazer's The Zone Of Interest, is utterly compelling as a novelist on trial after her husband is found dead in the snow, apparently having fallen from their balcony. Accident, suicide, or murder? Hüller gives credibility to every possibility at once, playing Sandra as brittle, warm towards her son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), but isolated from the close relationship he had with his father.

Though director Triet indulges in some flourishes straight from the pages of a murder mystery, this isn't a game of Cluedo with deductions to be made. Motives for both suicide and murder emerge from old, gendered resentments, such as Samuel’s culpability for Daniel nearly losing his eyesight, or Sandra swiping one of Samuel's ideas and achieving the literary career he was desperate for.

With the film's two-and-a-half-hour running time, the ambiguity could become tiresome, but thanks to a perceptive script delivered by a strong cast, including a charismatic turn by Swann Arlaud as Sandra's lawyer — plus a scene-stealing performance from Messi the border collie as Daniel's canine companion Snoop — Triet maintains momentum. At the film's core is a dissection not of a death but of the disintegration of a relationship and of the unforgivable things we can say to each other when we are the most damaged.

The film is actually a family drama masquerading as a murder-mystery. The popularity and wide acclaim the film has already achieved rest ironically on its exploration of the universal tensions within marriage.