Monday, October 2, 2023

Dissection of a Marriage

Anatomie d'une chute (2023) - Triet anatomy-of-a-fall-duo A fallen death of a husband in a troubled marriage in a small town in French Alpes and a following indictment and trial of his foreign wife is what constitutes Justine Triet's Palme d'Or winning courtroom drama. It's a modern marriage maginified under a microscope, revealing the nitty-gritty life of a young couple as their power dynamic plays out in the courtroom for all to see.

Triet, with only 3 feature films under her belt, all of them comedies, shows her tight handling of a material (co-written with her partner Arthur Harari). But the real star here is Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), a German actress whom Triet collaborated in her previous feature, Sybil. With the film's natural dialog and believable setup, Hüller manages to build a sympathetic character, a successful writer, a foreigner, a mom to a blind boy, trapped in a mountain town with a husband who has an inferiority complex.

At first, the police rules his fall from the attic window as a suicide. There were no witnesses. But there were some forensic evidence casting enough doubt that it might have been a murder. Sandra (Hüller) gets indicted and the case goes to trial. With her lawyer Renzi (Swann Arlaud) who was a college friend who was in love with her, Sandra defends herself from a vicious procecuter who accuses her of ill-tempered and violent woman who couldn't stand her loser husband.

As the trial plays out, it's revealing that there's prejudice against Sandra, a foreign woman, in a place where her husband grew up and had community. The film becomes less of a murder mystery but a procecution of a woman in the eyes of judging public. The unrelenting media blitz surrounding the trial and everyone painting her as an unfaithful harlot who blamed her husband for his own shortcomings.

Anatomie d'une chute paints a complex picture of a marriage where no one particular party is to blame. It's people's pre-ordered hate that makes one party more at fault and not the others. The real life isn't that black and white, especially when children are involved. Even the court decisions in family court can't ever paint the complete picture. Triet is very good at showing these nuiances and balancing all the points. The reenactment of the couple's violent argument recorded by the deceased as a material for his book, Triet skillfully cuts away to the courtroom, leaving us to guess who's throwing glasses and who's hitting who. Moral muck, guilt, ambiguity are bread and butter of every day life. Their son Daniel grows increasingly uncomfortable around Sandra as she tries to shield him from all the ugliness of the grownups - the money problems, dad's depression and taking anti-depressants, her own infidelity, etc. But he ends up becoming a pivotal witness to testify.

Well tuned and balanced, Anatomie d'une chute is a revealing film about this day and age where patriarchy and everyday sexism is slowly losing its grip on our society (or lets hope). Sandra Hüller again, is fast becoming the heroine we need in this social climate. Also, Triet, as with Sybil, examines the nature of art and literature- the art immitating life, plagiarism and even autofiction in a very captivating way.

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