“You need to start seeing yourself the way others are going to perceive you. The trial is not about the truth.”Maître Vincent Renzi
Anatomy of a Fall feels like the culmination of a recent obsession amongst French filmmakers with the inherent uncertainty in attempting to understand a moment in the past, a focus of The Accusation and The Night of the 12th. Justine Triet’s film is the most meticulous of these, portraying the investigation and trial which finds Sandra Voyter a suspect in her husband’s death at their remote home. Using France’s inquisitorial justice system, the trial becomes an autopsy of Voyter’s failing marriage, unearthing disharmony rooted in career success and infidelity. Although there is misdirectrion — Anatomy of a Fall addresses the unreliability of memory and witness testimony — Triet respects the rule that what appears on screen becomes fact for the audience. We see the period before and after the fatal fall but there is a deliberate lacuna of around an hour, a hole that the characters try to fill with conjecture and, later, audio recordings that remain subject to interpretation. My primary criticism is that the nature of the film creates a certain distance which can make Sandra Hüller’s performance (and indeed many of characters) feel coldly analytical. The most sympathetic character may be Sandra’s defence lawyer — Swann Arlaud captures the conflict in being instructed by someone for whom he cares while harbouring doubts about her story. Whilst Anatomy of a Fall keeps the audience guessing, it is very much a defendant’s perspective of a trial, including the sense of powerlessness before the process and the hollowness of any outcome. This careful blend of subjective filmmaking with an exercise in determining objective fact is where Anatomy of a Fall derives its power.