The film that stood out to me this year was Anatomy of a Fall, or "Anatomie d'une chute" in French, as spoken throughout. This film is two and a half hours that kept me thinking long after I left the cinema. Anatomy of a Fall is a legal drama about the investigation of a man's death and possible murder. The story mainly focuses on the wife, who may have killed him, and their blind son, who is the only witness, but it's miles ahead of most courtroom dramas because it includes a gripping family drama as well. The film focuses on a single point in time and dissects its characters' motives until it reaches a conclusion. Throughout the course of the film, you are given information via court scenes and character discussions. The director also knows what not to tell you as we don't see "The Fall" or any flashbacks, unless it is pre-recorded footage or audio. The film is committed to leaving it up to our imagination and it is up to us to discern fact from fiction. Its confined setting and characters keep it from being too complex but also saves it from being shallow and without any nuance.
The acting is incredible and it's among the best I've seen this year. I had never seen Sandra Hüller in any other film before this and I'll be looking into her filmography as soon as possible. She shows us every bit of the struggle of her character to maintain her innocence and the grief over the loss of her husband, often without saying so much as a word. Swann Arlaud plays Vincent, her lawyer and possibly her lover. He gives a lot of thought to how he plays him. I felt that Antoine Reinartz, here in the role of the prosecutor, talked a bit too much with his hands. Milo Machado Graner as the child had a lot of weight on his shoulders and carried his role well throughout, while also scaring me and reminding me of Danny from The Shining. However, I have to say the real standout is the family dog who is very professional and never pays attention to the massive film crew following him.
The film uses language well. There is plenty of French, English and a little German, and they're often used interchangeably. For some keeping up with subtitles, especially in a feature film, can sound like work but for me it only keeps my eyes glued to the screen. However, it was the sound design that stood out to me. The film knew how to craft its quiet moments while also knowing when to be loud: this coats the room with suspense.
Crucial to any film is a sense of direction. Anatomy of a Fall certainly has a very purposeful trajectory. Every scene was so effective and the ending just left me wanting more. This is Justine Triet's first film on a level this international. I find Anatomy of a Fall to be as perfect as a film can be: five stars. I really would love to see what projects she works on after this.