top of page
  • Jeff Beck

Anatomy of a Fall: Justine Triet's Remarkably Riveting Courtroom Drama (Criterion Blu-ray)


The Film:


Just last year, two of the very best films of the year surprisingly ended up being remarkably well-made courtroom dramas, a sub-genre that doesn't seem to get a particularly large amount of attention nowadays. One was a made-for-television remake of "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," which sadly ended up being the final film of Oscar-winning filmmaker William Friedkin, while the other was Justine Triet's international hit "Anatomy of a Fall," which not only claimed the Palme d'Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, but also garnered five Oscar nominations (including Picture, Director, and Actress) that resulted in a win for Best Original Screenplay. Subsequently, Criterion decided to immediately add the film to their incredible collection, and so, with the debut of its home release occurring this week, let's dive in to see what made it such a surprising success.


As the film opens, we meet writer Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), who is being interviewed by a student in her isolated home in the mountains. However, Sandra's husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) decides to play music very loudly from the attic, forcing her to reschedule the interview. Shortly after, their partially-blind son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) goes on a walk with his guide dog, returning to find his father dead on the ground after apparently falling from the attic window.


Sandra believes that it must have been an accident, but gets advice from her lawyer, Vincent (Swann Arlaud), who suggests that it could've been suicide given a previous incident. However, the investigation uncovers a recording of a recent fight between Sandra & Samuel, as well as a head wound that the latter received prior to the fall, which, combined with Daniel's conflicting accounts of events just before his father's death, result in Sandra being put on trial for murder.


No doubt there are people out there who believe that if you've seen one courtroom drama, you've seen them all, but while they may contain many of the same elements, that doesn't mean that they can't still surprise you. "Anatomy of a Fall" is a great example in that it's intricately written so as to keep you guessing (and second guessing) every step of the way as evidence is revealed and testimony given. Was Samuel's death an accident? Suicide? Or did Sandra actually do what she's accused of? Over the course of a riveting two and a half hours, filled with twists and turns, we explore the possibilities, occupying the edge of our seats as we wait to see how the tense trial will ultimately end.


With its incredible ability to keep the audience hanging on as the story unfolds, it's hardly a shock that the film won a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and finally an Oscar for its remarkable screenplay (written by Triet & Arthur Harari). Nor does it come as a surprise that it was nominated for Best Picture at all three ceremonies, along with Sandra Hüller receiving all three Best Actress nominations for her stunning performance. She's so good that she ends up making you question whether her performance is just the part of an innocent mother, or if it's perhaps a deceptive performance within a performance. Either way, it's yet another element that keeps you transfixed to the screen as the story unfurls.


What we end up with is a courtroom drama that flies by remarkably fast for a two and a half hour film. With its excellent screenplay, brilliant lead performance, and outstanding direction, "Anatomy of a Fall" is a great example of the sub-genre that shows that it still has a fair amount of life left, and that it can still keep you hooked if the writers are up to the task of creating a story with plenty of surprising developments. With all of this, it's no wonder at all that Criterion would want to induct it into their collection right away, where it will rightly stand along other great films from around the world.


Video/Audio:


"Anatomy of a Fall" comes to Criterion Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p high definition transfer of outstanding quality. The director-approved, 2K digital master looks incredible throughout its 151-minute runtime, with the image achieving a splendid film-like look, despite being shot on digital. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is marvelous, giving you all of the dialogue and music in excellent quality. Overall, in typical Criterion fashion, the film has received stunning treatment for its physical home debut.


Special Features:


Justine Triet (26 Minutes)

Alternate and Deleted Scenes (33 Minutes)

Auditions (8 Minutes)

Rehearsals (26 Minutes)

Behind the Scenes with Snoop (8 Minutes)


The Blu-ray comes with a fine selection of featurettes, totaling over 90 minutes, that include a fascinating interview with the director/co-writer, lots of deleted/alternate material, and behind the scenes footage of cast preparations. Definitely plenty of great material for viewers to dig into, with the Triet interview being a particular highlight.


Conclusion:


"Anatomy of a Fall" boasts an excellent, Oscar-winning screenplay, a marvelous lead performance from Sandra Hüller, and outstanding direction from Justine Triet, resulting in a remarkably riveting courtroom drama that easily ranks as one of the very best films of 2023.


Score: 4/5


Available on Criterion Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.


Comments


Join our mailing list

bottom of page