The film “Anatomy of a Fall” deserves to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Estimated read time 4 min read

Award season marks the yearly rotation of rumors, discussions, and predictions about disputed nominations and noticeable snubs, and this year’s major story revolves around France’s botched opportunity. Anatomy of a Fall, a legal drama about a writer accused of killing her husband, caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival last summer and ultimately took home the prestigious Palme d’Or – making director Justine Triet the third woman in the festival’s 76-year history to win the top prize. The film also became a box office success in France. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it was “one of the few movies that had all the elements of a strong Oscar contender: not only was it a critical favorite that resonated with audiences, but it was also distributed by prestigious US film company Neon, which previously guided Parasite to a best picture victory.”

Despite Tran Anh Hung being awarded best director at Cannes and receiving praise from critics for his beautifully crafted film, The Taste of Things was surprisingly not chosen by France’s Oscar committee to represent the country in the best international feature category. Instead, they chose a slow-paced period romance that also celebrates the beauty of food. This decision was viewed as the old guard of French cinema rejecting new talent, possibly due to director Maiwenn’s controversial comments at Cannes criticizing the government. Unfortunately, The Taste of Things did not receive an Oscar nomination, while Anatomy of a Fall received five. This raised questions in France about why they missed the opportunity to win their first Oscar for best international feature since Indochine in 1992.

What caused the surprise success of Anatomy of a Fall? The murder mystery has gained popularity in recent years, perhaps providing a sense of comfort during times of crisis. This genre focuses on narrowing the world and presenting questions that are not existential or rhetorical, but rather simply who is responsible? Triet’s film cleverly plays with the conventions of this genre, offering some clues such as a trail of blood, but also withholding other crucial details (such as the family dog, who is the only witness according to Triet). Just when we think we have solved the case, new uncertainties arise, keeping us on our toes. Sandra Hüller’s exceptional performance as Sandra, the main character, adds to the overall mastery of the film. She is both vulnerable and guarded, intelligent and enigmatic. A friend once asked me, “Did she do it?” My response was that she could either be a normal, strong innocent person, or a cunning mastermind. As shown in the latest season of The Traitors, it is easy to be tricked.

Beneath the dramatics of the courtroom lies a fundamental question: is it possible to truly understand someone else? Although Triet drew inspiration from courtroom dramas, she was also influenced by Noah Baumbach’s film Marriage Story (written with her husband during lockdown, though they deny any similarities between themselves and the characters). Within the larger legal proceedings, there is a more personal, yet equally significant, story of a marriage crumbling slowly, a subtle yet poignant examination of the small grievances that can destroy once loving relationships. There are feelings of jealousy over her successful writing career and his struggles to write; resentment over who takes on the bulk of the childcare responsibilities; and her infidelity. During the trial, the late husband’s psychiatrist paints a picture of a man consumed by anger towards his wife’s perceived slights. She objects, insisting that he was more than just his anger. She suggests that one can only see certain facets of a person, reflecting the film’s broader exploration of the unknown and unseen.

Ironically, the film “Anatomy of a Fall” was expected to be a top contender in the international feature category. However, with a more competitive field for the best picture award, its chances have become more uncertain. Despite this, the film deserves recognition for its ability to take common themes such as troubled marriages and legal procedures, and create a unique and impactful story that leaves a lasting impression on the audience. As the story reaches its conclusion and a version of events is presented and tentatively accepted, it evokes feelings of ambiguity rather than closure. This deliberate mystery and the film’s attempt to challenge the audience’s understanding may be the ultimate goal.


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