Anatomy of a Fall: marriage on trial

5 Minutes Jan 14, 2024 995 Words

Anatomy of a Fall: marriage on trial

"Anatomy of a Fall", movie by French director Justine Triet allows the audience to examine under a microscope the relationship of two writers living in isolation in the French Alps, raising their teenage son, Daniel. Like any couple, their relationship involves various elements such as fascination, jealousy, guilt, betrayal, support, compromises, arguments, etc. However, Samuel dies, and his wife Sandra becomes accused of his death.


The plot revolves around a legal process where the marital relationship between Samuel and Sandra becomes the main accused. Their family life comes under intense scrutiny from the press, the jury, and their son Daniel, who attends the court daily. For a child, the experience of being in court itself is traumatic. The sacred right to secrecy exists in marriage, and no one, neither the public nor children, should violate this secret.

Source: Anatomy of a Fall

The audience becomes like a voyeur, reminiscent of a classical Oedipal situation, where a couple engages in the mystery of love, and there is a third party (in the classical sense, a child aged 4-7), trying to see what exactly the couple is engaged in. However, every viewer plays the role of an observer in this film. At times, it becomes unpleasant to be forced to watch and listen to the intimate details of Samuel and Sandra's relationship, which should remain the untouchable secret of marriage.

Source: Anatomy of a Fall

Of course, every marriage has its ups and downs, dirty secrets, and the most humane accomplishments. But when you start talking about them out loud, their value, their unique significance, suddenly ripped out of context in the face of viewers who have no connection to the couple's life and must pass judgement on the value and fruitfulness of their relationships within a few hours. It loses its meaning.

The meaning and culmination

The talented director of the movie communicates the meaning of the film to the audience, encapsulated in Daniel's words: the truth is inaccessible, all we can do is choose the side we believe in and stick to our decision until the end. That's it. Period. We watch two and a half hours of the film to understand that this is the main message of the movie. And after the film ends, this feeling remains with us, the viewers. The truth is unknown, all we can do is believe the defense's words that Samuel committed suicide, or still be left with the feeling of an unresolved gestalt because Sandra was not convicted of killing her husband.

Source: Anatomy of a Fall

Daniel chooses the side of his mother, the living and loving parental figure. The viewer, on the other hand, is not in a position of dependence on Sandra and can only judge her based on the information heard in the courtroom. Whose side you are on - it's up to you to decide.

Certainty and confidence are luxuries inaccessible to our time and contemporaries. We are all forced to live in an intrapsychic, very limited world of our own ideas and convictions. Sometimes our beliefs are the only available stability, the ground beneath our feet. This film is one of the possible illustrations of this truism.

The fall

Samuel died, falling out of a window. There is a fact – he fall. Knowing the materials of the trial, it seemed to me that he had been falling for a very long time, probably for the last ten years. And finally, his mental fall materialised into a physical one. I would say that Samuel died a death that suited him. That brought internal and external into alignment. The only unfinished project in the history of his existence becomes life.

Source: Anatomy of a Fall

We are forced to immerse ourselves in the story of this man's misfortune. In the tumultuous path of his professional development, where he became the author of an unpublished novel. Because of this, he was full of jealousy towards his wife, who was a well-known writer. When he finally caught the muse by the tail and lost track of time, his son, under his supervision at that moment, had an accident and almost completely lost his sight. He blames himself for this, and his wife blames him too. Nine years after the accident, he still cannot "give birth" to a book. He is in free fall throughout his conscious life. And one day, he finds himself falled down.

Samuel is filled with suffering, frustration, and discontent. He is in a deadlock, into which he drove himself and could not get out of it alive.

Deferred grief

Daniel lost his father, Sandra lost her husband, but they were deprived of the opportunity to grieve him. To grieve in such a way that this traumatic situation could be lived through and transformed into post-traumatic growth. But the family is put in a situation where they have to defend themselves in court, proving that the loss was a real one. That it was genuinely difficult for Sandra to lose her husband.

Source: Anatomy of a Fall

If this were a film about a person with a psychotic personality organisation and a plot full of postmodernism, then the court process could be interpreted as mental defence against the experience of loss. Because grieving is a difficult and painful process that often leads to its suppression by involving various mechanisms of psychological defence. But the film is not full of postmodernism, and the process is real. Therefore, we do not see the experience of grief; it remains outside the frame, in the time that the family awaits after the trial.

In conclusion

A wonderful opportunity to spend two and a half hours thoughtfully reflecting on the meaning of marriage. The film has also been praised by film critics and received the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the "Palme Dog" award for the dog's performance.

Source: Anatomy of a Fall