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Why ‘Anatomy Of A Fall’ Has My Oscar Vote

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.


A lot of good movies were born this year; Past Lives left me weeping, Poor Things glued my jaw on the floor, and Barbie overtook my entire personality for a few good months. None of them, however, occupied the mental space that Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall did. The film takes place in the French Alps, where Samuel, an aspiring writer, and Sandra, his successful novelist wife, live. When Samuel plummets from the roof of their house into the snow and is found lying dead, an investigation begins. Did Samuel fall? Was this a suicide, or was he pushed? With this, Sandra becomes an obvious suspect, and her life gets investigated under a microscope. Her quiet life enlarges as she is taken to court, and the cracks in her fragile marriage are inspected with relentless precision. While the film never reveals whether Sandra is a murderer, it does shed light on the more mundane faults in her morality. 

Anatomy of a Fall should just as well be called ‘Anatomy of a Marriage’; more than a drama-heavy murder mystery, the film is a story of love rotting into hate, of a good woman who cannot be a good wife. Anatomy of a Fall investigates what a person would look like if only their mistakes define them. All of these questions of morality become especially interesting when positioned next to the permeative stink of murder. Anatomy of a Fall begs viewers to ask where the moral line is drawn: if someone is capable of infidelity, are they also capable of murder? At the crime scene, there is no proof and no witness, so the verdict must be drawn based on an evaluation of Sandra’s actions in various circumstances and, ultimately, an analysis of her character. Alongside the jury, we are asked, as an audience, to perform a moral evaluation and determine if Sandra’s actions make her simply human or make her a murderer.

By no means is Sandra a perfect woman or a perfect mother. She has moments of neglect and indifference towards her son, Daniel. Her selfishness is revealed as she prioritizes her career and dissociates from all else around her. Still, it is clear that Sandra is a woman with the capacity to love. The confusion that we feel towards Sandra is mirrored on the screen through 11-year-old, partially blind Daniel, who floats back and forth about his mother’s morality. There are moments when he cannot even look at her, and indeed, he is convinced she killed his father. There are moments when he loses all hope and sees only the evil in her. Ultimately, however, he holds a softness for her and decides to protect his mother. Still, it is unclear whether Daniel believes his mother to be non-guilty or if he is twisting the story for her protection.

Ultimately, I see Anatomy of a Fall as a close reading of a character, and the blemishes are revealed when she is examined meticulously enough. I have a soft spot for movies about confused people. I see Sandra as confused, as someone who has done bad things, but not as someone who is bad. As someone who has fallen out of love, as someone who is lost, as someone whose circumstances brewed a bitterness that cannot quite be mended. Triet leaves the audience in a state of uncertainty about Sandra’s guilt. Her refusal to conclude is vital for her story; she gives the viewer the power to decide, to examine all that Sandra is, and ultimately evaluate what type of person her actions make her. Sandra brings this ambiguity onto the screen perfectly. As an actress, Sandra Hüller’s performance is honest and blunt; she does not beg for our empathy or manipulate our emotions. She simply exists and allows us to watch. 

Anatomy of a Fall does everything it needs to; it captures the heartbreaking realness of evaporated love with as much authenticity as Marriage Story and engages viewers with the sharp dialogue and unpredictable courtroom energy of 12 Angry Men. It’s currently 6:25p.m. on March 10th, and the Oscars will begin in 35 minutes, so I leave you with this: no matter the outcome, Anatomy of a Fall is a winner in my mind and an absolutely brilliant exploration of human complexity.

Maya Gelfand

Queen's U '24

Maya Gelfand is a fourth year film and media student at Queens University.