Home Entertainment Sandra Hüller in Justine Triet’s Labyrinth

Sandra Hüller in Justine Triet’s Labyrinth

Sandra Hüller in Justine Triet’s Labyrinth

Justine Triet and her co-writer Arthur Harari have crafted a meticulous and integrated film with a high cinematic language

By Nuha Sowaid | Syria

In a unique cinematic adaptation of a non-traditional narrative, the film “Anatomy of a Fall” by the French director Justine Triet discusses the death of Samuel Malisky. Samuel’s death took place in Grenoble, the heart of the French Alps, and was caused by a fall from the attic of his house, where his wife Sandra Vuitt, the novelist, was accused of his murder.

The film opens with a ball rolling down the stairs, picked up by Snoop the dog, then the camera moves our eyes directly to the living room of the house, where the journalist Zoe Saldougue is conducting a press interview with Sandra, played by German actress Sandra Huller. We begin to get acquainted with Sandra’s character, who was cleverly diverting the course of conversation, and began asking the journalist questions in a humorous way, while trying to ignore the music coming from her husband’s attic. With the deliberate noise continuing from her husband, Samuel Theis, the journalist was unable to follow this simultaneously friendly and anxious conversation. While watching this opening shot, we notice an intense general atmosphere the producer created for the film, seating us on pins and needles where we get a strange feel from the relationship between the spouses, and many mysteries that we do not know.

After leaving the house shortly before the journalist left, Daniel returns from his walk to find his father lying in the snow, motionless and bleeding. Daniel is an eleven-year-old child played by Milo Machado-Graner.

This is where the story of the fall begins. Most of the film’s scenes start to investigate the incident and its circumstances in the courthouse corridor. Did Sandra push her husband off the attic after a fight that had happened between them? Did Samuel commit suicide? Or did his foot slip leading to his fall?

Anatomy of a fall - Sindh Courier-3Then we are faced with a crime film, but not like detective films based on Agatha Christie’s novels or Hitchcock’s films. The maker of this film may want to create mystery within us, but what is different about its narratives and production from previous films is its lack of horror and action scenes. It seems that we are facing a different kind of film in which Justine Triet excels in its production in her own way, as she delves deeper into the characters of the film more than focusing on the crime itself or its perpetrator.

The title of the film suggests a physical dimension as “Anatomy of a Fall” is an autopsy of Samuel’s body. However, the title carries a psychological dimension of utmost importance. The title is in harmony with the content of the film that deeply explores the cracks in marital relationships, and even dissects it, and the characters.

Our attempts to secretly look into the nature of this relationship has transformed, with the narration of events, into an observation undergone through a microscopic lens that exposed what’s concealed in a blatant and painful manner, making the film a precise and complex psychological dissection of a marriage on the verge of collapse.

Triet’s style in narrating her story is a compelling one that enough brainpower to evoke the viewer’s suspicion. All the evidence and interrogation of the suspect and witnesses presented contains uncertainty that makes us feel that the trial was a chaotic and confusing battlefield. This state is reinforced by the filmmaker, increasing the suspense by gradually presenting information, as if she is pushing us to piece it together ourselves, and involving us in an attempt to solve its puzzles to have a viewpoint on the incident just like the characters in her film, each with their own perspective. Yet, all this without imposing her own viewpoint on us as a director and writer of this work.

Through her clear and strong directorial vision, she managed to control the revelation of a captivating and intricate story with extreme precision, as the film raised many questions not only about marital relationships and gender roles, or who is the oppressor and who is the victim, but also about the concept of justice, truth, and the role of the law in revealing or upholding them. Is justice incapable of delving into the complexities of our human relationships? The death of Samuel no longer seems important to us, but what is simultaneously important and frightening is the way the trial is conducts and portrays different perspectives as facts. The legal representatives were filling the gaps in the case with assumptions instead of conducting real research to uncover the details of the case.

It becomes clear to us during the trial and the interrogation of the suspect and witnesses that the essence of the breakdown that shattered Sandra’s relationship with her husband began with the car accident that their son Daniel, at the age of four, suffered, which led to damage to the optic nerve of his eyes, and at that time he was under the care of his father. Thus, that accident became the catalyst that brought all the negative accumulations between the spouses to the surface.

The director tries, as the narrative continues, to make us at times witnesses to a failing marriage, and at other times she pushes us to judge Sandra and at another, Samuel. Who is responsible for the failure of their marriage? Is it Samuel? And his jealousy of his wife’s success and her surpassing him, although he subjected this marriage to his own condition, then lured Sandra into his space, making her agree to leave life in London, while she is originally German, to start her suffering due to her spatial, linguistic, and social alienation. Despite this, she tried to adapt to the worst conditions and continued her endeavor to success as a writer.

Is Sandra responsible, is she really a selfish person? She succeeded in making the conditions of her life suitable for her, while her husband was trapped because of her ambition, and he could not fulfil his dream of writing. Then he left his job as a professor at the university and devoted himself to caring for their son, Daniel, and completing the preparation of their house so they could rent it and benefit from it financially.

In fact, Triet is credited with addressing a subject with utmost sensitivity, presenting it in a form of the case of a non-conventional woman without being direct or crude, and without inciting us to sympathize with her as a victim, but rather she put us in the position of witnesses and judges facing this dilemma. Through the style of her narration, she managed to draw a line between us and the heroine, pushing us to think about the issue as a whole, even if we sympathize with Sandra. Perhaps our sympathy was further increased by the striking support provided by her old friend, the lawyer Vincent, played by Swann Arland, who defended her in court believing in her sincerity and innocence, as he played the biggest role in maintaining her resilience and steadfastness in the face of all pressures.

Amidst this rich and captivating drama, Sandra Hüller amazed us with her exciting and brilliant performance. It was a performance of strength and stability as much as it was of confusion and anxiety, and of dignity and intelligence as much as it was of cunning and humor. She excelled and stood out, giving the film its emotional power, which placed her among the top stars in the world of cinema to compete with the brilliant Emma Stone and Leila Jiladston for the 2024 Academy Award for Best Actress, but her luck was limited compared to Stone’s creativity, who won the award for her film “Poor Things”.

Anatomy of a fall - Sindh Courier-2Looking at the role of the child Daniel and his insistence on attending the hearings despite his young age, we find a role that surpasses his age and level of awareness. Everything he uttered came only from a rational person who had experienced and emerged from life experiences, as if the director intended to appoint Daniel to a third team, neither with the defense nor with the prosecution. He chose to understand, to search, and to convince himself. Therefore, he asked the legal guardian to stay alone over the weekend so he could make a decision in the absence of evidence.

We cannot overlook the important role of Daniel’s helper and companion, Snoop the dog. Snoop’s capture of the rolling ball from the stairs at the beginning of the film was not a random or coincidental scene. The ball here represents the case, and its rolling symbolizes its loss and the absence of evidence. Snoop captured and held it, so in the end, Snoop was the one who settled this case by using it as an experiment by Daniel to investigate, verify, and compare what happened to him after Samuel’s suicide attempt. The film ends with a scene of Snoop lying next to Sandra on the bed, another indication of the importance of his presence in the film and in Sandra’s life.

The courtroom, which does not resemble the traditional pattern of trials, is full of freedom and arbitrariness at the same time. The defense attorney interrupts the prosecutor, and the witness interrupts as well, speaking whenever he wants in a semi-absence of the presiding judge, to the extent that we did not hear her pronounce the judgment, but we heard the judgment from the media, as if the trial session did not take place in an official court, but in one of the salons or parliaments.

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Everything that happened inside the courtroom is more like the internal monologue of the film’s heroine, Sandra, as if she was judging herself, and presenting herself with viewpoints and inquiries, whether she wronged her husband or did not wrong him. How many of us have a harsh and fierce prosecutor inside each one of us, and how many times do we flog ourselves, and judge ourselves just as the prosecutor did with Sandra.

Tritt’s deep dive into the hearts of her characters led her to use visual techniques that engaged the audience in gathering facts. The cinematic shots of the courtroom, which were visually limited for the director’s imagination, led her to use audio recordings and flashbacks to take us out of the courtroom frame into another more thrilling setting: Samuel’s life before his death. This increased our psychological excitement and reinforced our determination to uncover the truth. She then successfully returned to her timeline, bringing us back to the courtroom, where she increased the use of close-ups, especially on Sandra’s face, adding another emotional density to the film and making us feel that beneath the calm expressions and the character’s stability, was a burning fire.

The testimonies and the repeated depiction of the falling incident from various perspectives gave another visual momentum, taking us out of the courtroom routine. The sudden camera jumps between the characters confirm the film’s main idea that we are facing a fragmented, incomplete reality and multiple perspectives, with scattered details.

The film’s music was not just a soundtrack but was also psychological scenes that cannot be separated from the film. It increased our feelings of anxiety, confusion, and loss, especially since it was Chopin’s music titled “Suffocation”.

Justine Triet and her co-writer Arthur Harari crafted a meticulous and integrated film with a high cinematic language that held us firmly for two and a half hours, deservingly winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2024.



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