Anatomy of a Fall

Anatomy of a Fall

Since its Cannes premiere and winning the coveted Palme d’Or award in 2023, Anatomy of a Fall has rightly received much critical attention. Film review by Ruby Lowenstein.

Set against the backdrop of the sweeping French Alps and the family’s half-renovated house, this thoroughly engaging “who-done-it” is a triumph of depth and subtlety, executed with poise and a sometimes vexing but crucial adherence to liminality.

As the title suggests, Anatomy of a Fall is, at its core, a finely woven deconstruction. The film chronicles the death of Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis) and the subsequent murder investigation of his wife Sandra (Sandra Hüller). The only witness is their vision-impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner).

Writer-director Justine Triet and co-writer Arther Harari, dissect their subject matter with surgical precision. The storytelling closely examines the intricacies of guilt, objective truth, the vagaries of personal ambition and what constitutes a happy family. Each scene drills down into the characters’ motivations while the promise of truth is kept just beyond our grasp in a nether world hovering between different perceptions of reality.

From the outset, we are presented with a series of binaries – accident or fall, fact or fiction, love or hate. It may seem the film’s goal is to identify one as correct, however, Anatomy of Fall holds a higher ambition.

Rather than structuring the narrative solely as a classical courtroom murder mystery, the film is purposefully opaque, exploring the role of agency in belief.

Triet’s film acknowledges that life can rarely be broken down into neat fact or fiction, is littered with uncertainty and that the truth can be largely subjective. Sometimes we must make difficult decisions, not because we feel confident in our choice, but to avoid the mire of a grey in-between.

To this end, the film does a commendable job of leaving space for contrasting judgment without undermining the directness of its punch. The narrative may take place in a single courtroom yet there are in effect three judges, each drawing unique conclusions; the legal system, the son who must decide with unreliable information whether his only remaining parent is a murderer, and the audience.

It is a film best seen without well-defined preconceptions. The central characters are presented meticulously, yet each spectator may find their interpretation is unique. Samuel’s character is particularly hazy, only seen in flashbacks or as a corpse. Sandra and Daniel are enigmatic protagonists, revealed to us not only through their dialogue but also keenly crafted moments of stillness. This is juxtaposed with the repeated interjection of a steel drum cover of 50 Cent’s song P.I.M.P., acting as an informal theme to the film creating an atmosphere of discomfort. The result? States of confusion and anxiety contrasted with stillness where our doubts multiply.

Spectators can look forward to a cerebral narrative that intellectualises without sacrificing pacing. It is a provocative film that mystifies and elucidates in equal measure and will appeal to lovers of mystery, courtroom, family drama and moral philosophy alike.

Anatomy of a Fall is currently showing at: Kino Cinemas, Cinema Nova, Palace Westgarth Cinemas, Lida Cinemas, and Palace Cinemas Penny Lane.


Ruby Lowenstein is a writer, critic, and producer. She holds an BA with Honours in cinema and an MA in Arts and Cultural Management from the University of Melbourne. Ruby has worked in the arts and media sector since 2017 and has a passion for all things cinema, art, and literature. 

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