This year’s Palme d’Or winner launches our Festival with a profound and galvanising reflection on truth, facts and fiction, pivoting around another extraordinary central performance from Sandra Hüller—familiar to audiences for her work in Toni Erdmann (NZIFF 2016) and In the Aisles, among other terrific films.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Director Justine Triet’s sober courtroom procedural is a departure from the films honoured by Cannes’ prestigious top award in the past two years—with which we closed NZIFF 2022 (Triangle of Sadness) and 2021 (Titane) and whose directors were respectively the Head and a Member of the Cannes’ Competition Jury 2023. Anatomy of a Fall may not appear to share those two titles’ raucous take-no-prisoners stance. But as it pries apart the intricacies of a relationship between successful writer wife and thwarted would-be writer husband, between parents and child, between stories told and reality lived, it proves to be as equally bold and engrossing. – Sandra Reid
“On the crisp snow outside his family’s isolated chalet in the Alps, 11-year-old Daniel returns to find his father Samuel dead, blood trickling from his head, far below an open window; hearing Daniel’s screams, his mother Sandra comes outside to the bad news, and the questions begin. First among them, the oldest one in the mystery playbook: did he jump or was he pushed? If the latter, Sandra is the only suspect; if the former, she’s still under the microscope, as the underpinnings of their seemingly comfortable marriage come in for scrutiny.
What we get… over an expansive but consistently riveting two-and-a-half-hour runtime, is a kind of emotional procedural, less concerned with cold facts than with multiple parties’ fluid, permeable ideas of the truth and the ellipses between them.
Nobody holds all the cards here. Daniel, who is partially sighted, keeps adjusting his recollections of events—perhaps to protect his mother, perhaps to guard his own trauma. Sandra, at least, knows what she did and didn’t do, but can’t say the same about her husband; the more she argues her case in court, projecting convenient motivations onto a dead man, the more it sounds like she didn’t really know him at all…
The filmmakers’ fixation on untidy ambiguities is matched by Hüller’s astonishing performance as a woman who would likely stand her ideological ground as intensely if she were guilty as if she were innocent. At a certain point in the trial, it feels she has to defend her right to an imperfect marriage more urgently than anything else…
Deliberate and elegant in form, but with a fast heartbeat under its serenity, Anatomy of a Fall gives its audience plenty of space to breathe and gaze and ponder matters less immediate than simply whodunnit—though you may be arguing with yourself over that, too, for days to come.” — Guy Lodge, Film of the Week
“The film slowly peels apart its layers, exploring how truths and facts become fictions in the retellings, whether they’re told in a courtroom or in a novel.” — Alissa Wilkinson, Vox