Criterion Review: ANATOMY OF A FALL (2024)

Justine Triet’s Cannes and Oscar success is a provocative interrogation of perspective and truth

Stills courtesy of NEON and Criterion.

After the sudden, mysterious death of her husband at their Swiss chalet, successful novelist Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) is thrust into an unforgiving world of legal and public scrutiny. Both Sandra’s sympathetic legal counselor Vincent (Swann Arlaud) and a ravenous prosecutor (Antoine Reinartz) pick over every aspect of Sandra’s personal and professional life, aided by a crew of warring forensic and psychological experts. Whether out of support or malice, they meticulously implode any sense of privacy or dignity Sandra possesses to convict or exonerate Sandra of killing her husband. Throughout, German-born Sandra must defend herself in non-native languages of French and English; she walks a tenuous linguistic tightrope in conveying the heartbreaking emotional complexity of her degrading relationship with her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) while trying not to sway the judicial system towards a guilty verdict. 

Also caught in this moral maelstrom is Sandra’s blind son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner); the first to discover his father’s body, Daniel tries to synthesize all of the conflicting, charged opinions of the courtroom with his own memories of his parents. In doing so, he realizes his own perspective on these tragic events will decide his mother’s fate.

While drawing inspiration from other Criterion classics like Anatomy of a Murder, Justine Triet’s Palme D’Or-winning film becomes far more than a gripping legal drama. As one pours over the minutiae of the Voyters’ lives, clashing perspectives threaten at every turn to upend what we think we know about the couple in front of us. Each new bit of evidence doesn’t just refute our preconceived notions, Triet makes us conscious of who is presenting that information, and why. Considered on their own, these anecdotal testimonies and snippets of audio/visual evidence tease out new aspects of this couple; yet by framing at times objective bits of information through the perspectives of defense and prosecutor, Triet and co-writer Arthur Harari forces their viewers to consider just why we choose to accept some pieces of evidence and their crucial context over others. Do we take the testimony of Samuel’s psychologist at face value? The dubious re-cres of the accident and the events leading up to it, increasingly performed under duress by Sandra? What are the real-life applications and parallels to Sandra’s works of fiction? Does 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” still carry the weight of the lyrics’ misogyny and violence even in its instrumental version? 

Over its runtime, Anatomy of a Fall is less of a film getting to the point of its central character’s alleged guilt and more about what facts we choose to cling to to form the basis of a singular “truth.” It’s a wonderful film about the compulsion to categorize and compartmentalize those around us. No character bears this more than Machado-Graner’s Daniel, tragically trapped as a spectator until the film’s last moments. The product of both parents’ quarreling worldviews, Triet filters and re-orients his memories through the testimonies he blindly bears witness to. Through Daniel, Triet begs, “how do we reckon our deeply held, emotionally charged views of those we love against horrifying conflicting information?”

To Triet’s and especially Sandra Hüller’s credit, Sandra Voyter is miraculously played as someone whose nature as a legal cipher never quite diminishes the amount of empathy we build towards her. Through another lens, Anatomy of a Fall is a biting examination of the harsh standards successful women like Sandra must be subjected to. In her ailing marriage, Sandra expertly yet futilely tried to balance her wildly successful literary career against her husband’s perpetual failures; her love for her husband against his complicity in a familial tragedy; and what is expected of her as a partner versus her own valid needs as an individual. What’s more, in the wake of Samuel’s death, Sandra must walk that unforgiving line in languages other than her native tongue–knowing full well that certain ambiguities will be lost in the communication gap, and that prosecutorial forces are counting on that to happen. As a prosecution creates a malicious image out of her through piecemeal anecdotes and equivocations to fiction, Sandra and her valiant defense must also create and defend their own image of her that, while far from perfect, stands the best chance of sparing her life. It’s an unbelievably stressful series of legal and emotional hurdles that, as lawyer Vincent says early on in the film, renders the idea of proving her guilt almost beside the point. This moral gauntlet is daunting and draining for any defendant to bear regardless of intent or outcome.

It’s the experience and resolution of this emotional trial from which Triet fashions an incredibly memorable and provocative film. Fresh from its own trials by fire on the French and International film competition circuit, where it won both the Palme D’Or and Best Original Screenplay Oscar, Criterion has assembled a thorough and insightful package for Anatomy of a Fall’s home video release.


Criterion presents Anatomy of a Fall in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p HD, sourced from the original 2K master files provided by Neon and production company Les Films Pelléas. The film is accompanied by a 5.1-Channel audio mix, with English subtitles available in both SDH as well as for solely non-English sections of the film. An English-language descriptive audio track is available for the feature, leaving space for English-language audio while dubbing non-English-language dialogue. Special Features are subtitled only for non-English-language sections.

What marks the visual style of Anatomy of a Fall is how Triet, cinematographer Simon Beaufils, and editor Laurent Sénéchal mine the film’s frozen Swiss setting to create a film that perpetually remains at a sparse, cold remove. Criterion’s disc presentation dutifully represents the film’s muted color palette while preserving pops of color found in skin tones, set dressing, and other key elements, in addition to the earthy tones of the film’s central chalet. Shot digitally and compressed to HD, there’s a healthy amount of natural digital noise which becomes prominent on black/dark textures and spaces. However, this grain never becomes too distracting during the presentation; more complex textures like hair or Sandra’s sweater during Vincent’s visit never overly reduce to blocking or digital artifacting. For a film that was never intended to receive something as complex as a 4K UHD release, this is a stellar presentation of Anatomy of a Fall, faithful to the original master materials.

Without a traditional score, the surround audio track intimately captures every faint domestic noise in the chalet as well as the thrumming percussion in the obnoxious blaring of Samuel’s steel drum “P.I.M.P.” cover at the film’s beginning. During key sequences, Triet and sound designer Fanny Martin create complex layers between diegetic noise and audio recordings, creating an ever-present split dichotomy between past, present, and warring perspectives. The inclusion of a descriptive audio track by AudioEyes is a welcome and entertaining one amid Criterion’s improving accessibility for its releases–especially for a film whose emphasis on perspective is paramount to its success.

Special Features

  • Justine Triet: A lengthy interview with Anatomy of a Fall’s writer/director, charting the origins for the film, her initial collaborations with actress Sandra Hüller, various production challenges (especially in regards to location logistics), the choice to forego a traditional score for the film, and inspirations from philosopher Gilles Deleuze.
  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes: Accompanied by a humbling introduction and optional commentary by writer-director Triet, five deleted and alternate scenes are presented. There’s The Psychic, featuring a man referred to earlier in the film who attempts to detect Samuel’s presence at Sandra and Daniel’s request; The Reunion, an alternate version of Sandra and counselor Vincent’s outdoor discussion of her relationship with Samuel; The Argument, twelve riveting minutes of single takes of Sandra Hüller during the film’s climactic fight between her and Samuel; The Restaurant, an extended version of Sandra’s celebratory dinner at the film’s conclusion; and Vincent and Sandra, eight minutes of takes between Hüller and Arlaud in the aftermath of that dinner as both actors try to find the right rhythm for this tender moment between their characters. Coupled with Triet’s commentary, this is a remarkably naked look at the production of Anatomy of a Fall, recognizing how any film is the result of intense collaboration and evolving process between creatives.
  • Auditions: audition footage for Milo Machado Graner and Antoine Reinartz, providing a look at Triet’s intimate interview-style process for meeting with actors.
  • Rehearsals: Fly-on-the-wall footage shot by Justine Triet of the film’s rehearsal process, featuring Milo Machado Graner utilizing various teachers and technological methods to train himself to play a blind character, as well as early versions of scenes between him and actress Sandra Hüller.
  • Behind the Scenes with Snoop: the featurette we’ve all been waiting for, animal trainer Laura Martin provides a candid, demonstration-rich guide through training her French Border Collie Messi to a Palme D’Og-winning performance for French media outlet Madmoizelle.
  • Trailer for Anatomy of a Fall’s US theatrical release.
  • Essay by New Yorker critic Alexandra Schwartz, discussing Anatomy of a Fall’s themes of perspective, judgment, empathy, and auto-fiction in the context of Triet’s creative process, her previous films Victoria and Sybil, and her relationship with her partner and co-writer Arthur Harari.

Anatomy of a Fall is now available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

One thought on “Criterion Review: ANATOMY OF A FALL (2024)

  1. This is such a beautiful summary of a great film , thoughtful and inspiring in the imagery of the characters!! Great job , to both writers!

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