Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

It’s no surprise Anatomy of a Fall has won Golden Globe and Cannes International Film Festival best film awards.

Anatomy of a Fall investigates the circumstances behind the death of Samuel (Samuel Thies ) in the French Alps.*

At its core it’s the investigation of a suspicious death. But this gripping and entertaining French movie is far more than this.  It is also an emotionally charged courtroom drama, the study of a broken marriage and an exploration of society’s expectations of a mother’s behaviour.

German born Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), a successful writer, is accused of murdering her French husband Samuel (Samuel Thies). But did she do it?

Sandra Hüller (Sandra) .*

When we first meet Sandra she is being interviewed by graduate student Zoé (Camille Rutherford). It’s a rather flirtatious interview but doesn’t last too long as blasts of a steel-band cover of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P played on repeat by Samuel upstairs make it impossible for the two to talk. Zoe leaves while the couple’s visually impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) goes for a walk with the family dog.

On his return Daniel finds his father dead in the snow.  Did Sandra push him from the top of their partially renovated chalet home in the French Alps, did he accidentally fall or did he commit suicide?

The authorities treat Samuel’s death as suspicious and Sandra becomes the main suspect. Eventually she is arrested for murder.

Milo Machado Graner (Daniel)*

The bruising subsequent trial lays bare the couple’s fractured marriage. Little by little we discover Sandra was far more successful than her husband, a fact he found hard to take.  And that Samuel blamed himself for the accident that resulted in Daniel’s partial blindness.

We also learn Sandra has lied to the authorities about the circumstances leading up to the death of her husband.  And the marriage was disintegrating for numerous reasons including her success compared to her husband’s and disagreements over child minding arrangements.

We hear she has had affairs during the marriage and she didn’t want to leave London, where the couple were living, to move to France.

Antoine Reinartz (Advocate General)*

Most of these discoveries are made as a result of the aggressive questioning during her trial by the prosecuting lawyer (Antoine Reinartz).  Being tried in a French court would seem far more stressful than an Australian court given the prosecutor/advocate general can ask the accused any question at any time.

Sandra’s legal representative Vincent (Swann Arlaud) tries to protect her as much as possible but it’s not always easy especially when the court discovers the extent of their failing marriage.

Adding to her stress is the trial being conducted in French. Eventually she is allowed to give some evidence in English.

Sandra Hüller (Sandra) stars in Anatomy of a Fall.*

Then there’s the trial’s impact on Daniel which is often very difficult to watch. In the initial investigation he’s pressured by authorities regarding what he saw. Then he has to hear horrible things about both his parents and has to decide what to believe. In the end it’s his testimony that ultimately determines Sandra’s fate.

Watching Hüller in action is one of the joys of Anatomy of a Fall.  She brilliantly portrays Sandra’s complex personality and the many emotions she experiences as a result of her husband’s death and the bruising trial.

Peeling back the many layers of this suspenseful and compelling movie is another highlight so much so that its running time of 150 minutes flies by.

Anatomy of a Fall opens in cinemas around Australia on January 25.

* Photo credit: Les Films Pelleas.

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