A suspense around a woman writer accused of the death of her husband. A fresco-style trial film. Justine Triet signs her best film with a Palme d’Or.
This Palme d’Or does not come from nowhere. Before Anatomy of a fallall films by Justine Triet (The Battle of Solferino, Victoria And Sibyl) had already had the honors of a Cannes selection. But each time, she left empty-handed. On the evening of its first screening, in front of the enthusiastic reactions – French as well as international – one could bet without great risk that it would turn out differently. The verdict therefore turned fully to his advantage, without sparking the usual post-announcement debates. And seeing the film again two months later even swept away some of the reservations we had when discovering it.
An undisputed Palme d’or, therefore… and indisputable for an insanely suspenseful story, right down to its final stretch. It all starts with a lifeless body found at the foot of a mountain chalet after the fall that gives the film its title. This man is Samuel, aspiring to a literary career in which his wife – and mother of their visually impaired son Daniel – Sandra excels. What add frustration in a couple where everyday life has ended up giving birth to the slow poison of disenchantment? What make Sandra the ideal culprit of this possible murder or explain on the contrary that at the end, Samuel decided to commit suicide? Such is the permanent doubt in which the director keeps us for… 2h30. But 2h30 that keep you going without downtime. And say that at no time does Justine Triet tremble, pen or camera in hand. That sure of her biases, she does not seem to gain for a single moment by what one might think of her film. Like this central idea, on paper a little emphatic – that the almost blind child (Milo Machado Graner, fascinating) of this couple will become the one… who sees the situation best. A bias which, in the end, works to the full because it is through it that we live, feverishly, each twist of this trial where speech (starting with an audio recording of a violent crisis between Sandra and Samuel, central piece of the file) plays a central role.
The entire staging of Justine Triet should be read in the light of this party. She shatters the filmic codes of the trial film (fixed shots, symmetrical lines, etc.) through a game of zooms, low angles and permanent but fully controlled camera movements, marrying the gaze of this child who wanders to escape to the intensity of the exchanges. And this staging – there is above all in the service of a masterful script, co-written with his companion Arthur Harari (who will be found on September 27 … camping George Kiejman in another major trial film, The Goldman Trial by Cedric Khan!). Because it intertwines with a fluidity never faulted the difficulty or even the impossibility of giving birth to THE truth, a reflection on the couple in the light of the upheavals caused by #Metoo and the exploration of the judicialization of the intimate , a phenomenon that has continued to grow in recent years. The story thus unfolds over several layers, each of which complements the other. With a cerebral nature that blends with what we see Sandra feel physically (or make us believe?) with each testimony or each confrontation not devoid of bold touches of humor which, again, hit the mark, between her lawyer and the prosecutor , camped by the amazing and complementary Swann Arlaud and Antoine Reinartz.
Finally, this great film is also that of an immense actress: Sandra Hüller. So much we could see him and see him again without ever being able to guess what is hidden behind his eyes, if “his” Sandra is only sincerity, Machiavellianism or precisely deeply human, therefore a little of both! So much precision, so much intelligence in acting over different languages (German, English, French) that his character speaks, so much power, so much charisma never overwhelms the film but propels it even higher.
By Justine Triet. With Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner… Duration 2h30. Released August 23, 2023