“Anatomy of a Fall” of one family (2023): meaning of the film, plot, ending explanation, description, analysis, similar films.
Genre: drama, detective, thriller
Year of production: 2023
Director: Justine Trieu
Actors: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlo, Milo Machado Graner, Antoine Reinartz
Awards and nominations: In 2023, the film won the Cannes Film Festival, and in 2024 it received two Golden Globes.
“Anatomy of a Fall” is a story focused on the investigation of the death of one of the characters. However, the film cannot be called a typical detective story – it only disguises itself as a procedural, a psychological thriller and a “narrative” drama. The point of the film “Anatomy of a Fall” (Anatomie d'une chute) is still different: in particular, it raises complex questions about relationships and talks about the breakdown of a family.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the contents of the picture. The story centers on the life of a European family. Sandra is German, Samuel is French. Together they are raising their son Daniel. The boy has a visual impairment – he practically lost it when he was under the supervision of his father.
Sandra Hüller as Sandra, Samuel Theis as Samuel. Still from the film.
The family lives in a chalet in the French Alps. One day, returning from a walk with his guide dog, Daniel discovers his father on the street in a pool of blood. Soon the police arrive at the house, and then an investigation begins. What happened – an accident, suicide or murder? If the latter, who committed the crime and what was the motive? Eventually Sandra is charged and the trial begins.
The line of accusation looks quite harmonious and logical: Sandra is a successful, recognized writer. What happened to Samuel is very reminiscent of a murder described in one of her books. By the way, the deceased himself was also a creative person, however, unlike his wife, he was not successful.
Daniel, who found his father, is the main witness. But the teenager’s words are treated with skepticism – after all, he sees almost nothing. Sandra herself is sure that Samuel fell from the second floor, but how did this happen?.. Unfortunately, the autopsy does not show anything.
Meanwhile, the trial continues, and the media are getting involved in the case. At the meeting, they are no longer trying to find out what happened and who is to blame for Samuel’s death, but rather dissecting his family life with Sandra. Their union was very difficult, they often quarreled – not least because the man was jealous of his wife’s success.
Daniel is very worried and with each new meeting he is increasingly tormented by the question: is his mother really capable of murder? He is temporarily placed under the care of juvenile justice and the boy, in desperation, asks for help from an employee of the organization – he wants to understand what happened.
She admits that the matter seems very confusing to her. “In order not to doubt, sometimes you just have to decide which side you’re on. You have to believe in one thing and if you have two options, you have to choose,” she says. The boy doesn’t like this approach, but he understands that, in general, he has no choice…
Explanation of the ending of the picture. A year later, Daniel is called to court as a witness. The boy refuses to blame his mother and invites the investigation to think not about how the tragedy happened, but about why it happened. He recalls a conversation with his father and concludes that he was depressed and preparing for death. The prosecutor notices that Daniel’s story is very subjective.
However, the jury acquits Sandra and she returns home. The woman warmly meets her son and their lives slowly return to normal – this is the meaning of the ending of the film Anatomy of a Fall.
The ending is devoid of catharsis and will probably disappoint many viewers – after all, there are no revelations or “double bottom” in it. But, most likely, this is how such everyday stories should end: tired, exhausted people do not need kisses on the diaphragm, passionate hugs and pretentious remarks. They are just quietly happy that the nightmare is finally over and are thinking about how to move on with their lives.
The meaning of the film
As Leo Tolstoy said, “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The film “Anatomy of a Fall” picks up this theme and tells the story of one such unhappy family.
The couple, Sandra and Samuel, are representatives of different nationalities and they communicate with each other in English. This has a special meaning: we see “that same” Europe without borders: there is no difference whether you are German or French – you are just a European and that’s all. However, everything is so simple only at first glance: despite the abolition of political borders, cultural and moral boundaries have not gone away. The director effectively and quite elegantly goes through all modern “progressive” ideas. We clearly see: new standards have been born by society, but an attempt to follow them ultimately leads to sexism, chauvinism and abuse.
The role of Daniel's son was played by Milo Machado-Graner. Still from the film.
The painting has a hidden meaning. The couple, a German and a Frenchman, constantly compete for the right to be successful and their union eventually falls apart with a bang. Here you can see a very subtle hint at the founders and leaders of the modern European Union. The poorly concealed xenophobia directed at Sandra suggests that the absence of borders has not equalized the inhabitants of even economically successful countries…
Moreover, that very “objective reality” that is commonly believed in does not actually exist and any event reaches us with echoes of a crafty echo. It is no coincidence that a disabled boy, in response to his request to help him find the truth, receives advice: just choose one of the sides. Finding a worthy justification is not difficult. True? She is “somewhere nearby”, calm down and relax. In the era of social networks, half-truths, fakes and “highly likely”, this idea sounds very bold and fresh.
At first glance, the plot centers on the investigation into Samuel's death. However, in reality, the director hardly cares about the solution and answer to the question “who is guilty.” The court play ends on a beautiful note and makes the headlines of all French newspapers. That’s it, “finita la commedia”. The curtain falls, you can leave until the next performance…
In their analysis of the film, many viewers note the terse tone of the narrative. This has a special meaning. In her interview, the director said that the viewer simply cannot help but take the side of one of the spouses – Sandra or Samuel. However, not all so simple.
Swann Arlaud played the role of Vincent Renzi. Still from the film.
Sandra, a more successful writer than her dead husband, is the unobvious aggressor, and the dead Samuel is the undeniable victim. However, both of these “portraits” are created not by those who knew them closely, but by almost random people – a psychotherapist, a lawyer, an investigator and a prosecutor. Each of them has their own interpretation of what happened and, in fact, they are all very unreliable narrators. However, one of them must ultimately be believed by both the jury and the audience. This is generally what happens.
And there is also the half-blind son of the main characters. This is not just an important character, but also a metaphor – bright, almost head-on, but quite appropriate. It can be deciphered quite simply: we don’t see the whole picture, but we still have to make a choice (often fateful)…
This is precisely the essence of the film – in exposing the post-truth that is being imposed on us. Therefore, this film cannot be called an accidental winner of the Cannes Film Festival. This is an iconic movie that reflects the current state of society, which represents small, half-blind people who are not sure of anything. They do not know the truth and are content with subjective beliefs and decisions. Simply because it is more convenient and calmer.
Still from the film.
Here are several films that are somewhat similar to the film “Anatomy of a Fall” in plot and meaning:
- “Good Time” (USA, 2017). Connie has no job, no money, and bills keep mounting. Desperate, she decides to rob a bank.
- “The Sacred Spider Killer” (Denmark, Germany, France, Sweden, Jordan, Italy, 2022). A serial killer appears in Mashhad, systematically killing prostitutes. In this way he is trying to “cleanse” the city from “filth.”
- “Thelma” (Norway France Denmark Sweden, 2017). The girl Thelma, raised in a very religious family, goes to university and moves away from her parents.
- “The Salesman” (Iran, France, 2016). The couple is forced to move to another apartment. Soon the man's wife is attacked by an attacker and he decides to find him as soon as possible.