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You might walk away from the theater (or the Piazza Grande!) at the end of Anatomie d’une chute, the most recent Cannes Palme d’Or winner. But do not think you’ll walk away from the film so easily. Expect, instead, to be delightfully haunted for quite some time by Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band’s instrumental rendition of 50 cent’s song P.I.M.P., as scenes, dialogues and gazes come back to your mind with all their equivocalness, and the puzzle assembles, disassembles and reassembles.
The film can be frustrating for those asking for a clear-cut truth, especially from a court-room thriller. But isn’t everything – starting with life – a matter of perception, perspective and interpretation, and their limits? And what if the closest possibility to an “objective” account of the facts were the souvenirs of a blind pre-teen going through the grief and trauma of losing his father, while his mother stands accused of murdering him – and who becomes increasingly conscious of the potential weight of his words?
In these days of oversimplification and immediate judgment, Justine Triet challenges the haste to jump to conclusions by switching and sometimes just subtly shifting points of view, proposing and then shattering possible certainties. The meticulous mise-en-scène and editing do not lose their grip throughout the entire 150 minutes of film, which basically tries to reconstruct what happens in the brief moments at the start, when a man goes from working in his attic to lying dead on the snow in front of his house. Or it proves a vain attempt, with justice too often being delivered through belief, not evidence.
The construction of Anatomie d’une chute (that Triet calls her most intimate film, written together with her life partner Arthur Harari) revolves around the off-camera, around what is not seen and is not heard; what is remembered and what is forgotten, and of course what is distorted, concealed or made up, and the impossibility of telling them apart. Eventually, it is all about what can be imagined and speculated not just of a couple’s privacy, but also of a woman’s mind and soul, which becomes a public space everyone is entitled to pry into.
There’s nothing new in describing Sandra Hüller as impressive, but as used as we may be to her talent, her characterization of Sandra Voyter, a German writer living in the French mountains with her husband and son, is nothing short of sublime. Which makes Milo Machado Graner’s performance even more remarkable, as the young actor is never overshadowed as he conveys the inscrutable torment (and strategy?) going on inside the wide-eyed Daniel. Swann Arlaud as the committed defense lawyer and Samuel Theis as the husband, as well as an excellent cast of smaller roles (Antoine Reinartz, Saadia Bentaïeb, Jehnny Beth…), complete the ensemble.
Justine Triet’s fourth feature offers one of those gratifying viewing experiences that appeals to the spectator’s intelligence, and is at the same time suspenseful, amusing and moving… to the contagious rhythm of P.I.M.P.
The film marks director Justine Triet's second collaboration with actress Sandra Hüller after Sybil - Labyrinths of a Woman in 2019.