“Anatomy of a fall”: an Oedipus paradox and a conflict between languages

Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of a fall, in Italian cinemas) by French director Justin Trier is a film of irrevocable ambiguity and was awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year perhaps for that reason. In his plot, the only sure thing is that there is a dead person. We know: one death is more than enough to make a movie. But to Anatomie d’une chutehow the deceased died and who or what died are questions that give different answers.
However, when starting out, it’s best to stay on the surface. On the surface, his dead Anatomie d’une chute he is a Samuel, a French writer in a serious personal and inspirational crisis. Samuel is the husband of a Sandra. Or, rather, it was: very early in the film, Samuel actually rides classically as dead, and only appears alive in a few important flashback.
Who is Sandra then? Sandra is the protagonist. She is also a writer and with her work often touches not always innocent aspects of the human soul, above all her own. Unlike Samuel, Sandra is prolific in successful books. He is not French and prefers to express himself in English. This trait of hers and her preference are brought up several times in the story: the film is French, it takes place in France, but for a large part of it, the protagonist speaks essentially in English. We have to assume that, as a writer, Sandra is speaking in the same language, but whoever dictates that note doesn’t remember if the script is clear about that. Warning: English is on Sandra’s lips and under her pen, but Sandra is not English: hers is a transnational language. Sandra is German. So it is in terms of mannerisms, one could say that he upholds what is a national cliché in this regard and has a concomitant figure: a masculine femininity. Already present in a previous Triet film, in which she brought the role of a director to the screen, Sandra Hüller is a perfect performer, in this sense. The fact that the actress and the character have the same first name suggests that the role was, in some respects, designed around who would play it.
Then there is a Daniel, who plays an important role in the narrative process. Daniel is the son of the two and is torn between maternal and paternal expression. He plays cultured music with mastery on the piano. He is a wise and thoughtful pre-teen. Maybe because he’s blind. Years earlier he had been the victim of an accident that deprived him of his sight. The father holds himself responsible for the accident, with an associated sense of guilt: the child had suffered the damage because, observe carefully, the father had not turned up for a meeting as he should have. Under the same roof, with Samuel, Sandra and Daniel, an important presence, also lives Snoop, Daniel’s complement: he is his canine companion. He has no language, but in Sandra’s language he has a speaking name.
Returning from a walk, Snoop leads Daniel to Samuel’s lifeless body. He is lying in the snow covered in his own blood, in front of the tall and lonely chalet where the family lives, in the French Alps.
Samuel had actually decided to leave London, where the couple had been created and lived with the child, but where his brilliance had become sterile. The family had thus moved to a place which, away from the chaos of a metropolis, would enable Samuel to have vital contact with his language. So there the man was looking for inspiration and a new creative impulse. An attempt was soon angrily frustrated. Sandra, who had agreed to the move, was not happy with the new arrangement. It was inappropriate for her son, she believed, and for her. Excessive loneliness, for her social exuberance, not to say that her French did not allow her a personal expression that satisfied her.
Daniel’s hands, then, take the place of his eyes and, incidentally, under those hands is the dead man: Samuel’s father. But how and why did he die?
Samuel may have killed himself. Suffering would have taken over and he would have decided to end it. In that case, he would have been thrown from the attic window of the chalet. He had been devoted to it ever since DIYer in carpentry, citing domestic economic reasons, but in reality to waste his days.
Samuel could have fallen, but from the small veranda under the window, equipped with a railing. He fell into the void, after being violently hit on the head by someone. And, in this second instance, struck by whom, in this solitude, if not by Sandra?
Over the years, the relationship between Sandra and Samuel had indeed deteriorated: he was very fragile and sterile, she was very rude and efficient. And when Daniel left the house that day, with Snoop as the driver for a ride, the impression was that the two had a heated argument, the chalet resounding with the deafening music of Samuel’s frustrated protest. .
The investigators then want to understand how things actually went down and, as the only partial and indirect witness, blind and based on his auditory memory, Daniel denies that the fight ever happened. But it happens that he is unable to explain whence he derives this certainty and therefore contradicts himself. For this and other reasons, they are convinced that Sandra is no stranger to Samuel’s death. Sandra protests her innocence and seeks help from Vincent, a lawyer who is her friend: a French friend who, in fact, courts her, albeit with grace and discretion. And after some time the process starts. We proceed to the anatomy of a fall referred to in the title of the film, with an open allusion to a classic of the same cinematic genre: Anatomy of a murder by Otto Preminger.
Here begins a film which, having reached this point and laid its cards on the table, takes on the forms and themes of a court mystery, with all the usual trappings. Not a word more will be said about it, for obvious reasons.
Anatomie d’une chute So it tells a family tragedy with a mother, a father, dead and a son who doesn’t know, doesn’t see and tries to understand. For two and a half millennia, a trio that functions as a system of relationships for a normal narrative progression, as is self-evident, but which apparently also has a plasticity ready to produce variations. In an anthropological and cultural climate such as today, different power relations and different sensitivities between the sexes are created or have already been created in Western society.
Triet and her husband Arthur Harari, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with her, then developed a variation that allows us to see an Oedipus in the filigree of Daniel’s figure, with all the plot implications of assigning the character to definite type from a similar Bosian nomenclature. The myth remains in the background, but with radical and important adjustments. Dead and on the sidelines, as he always was, an incompetent Laius. In the center, where she never was and now can (and perhaps must) be, an ambiguous and victorious Jocasta: winning because she is ambiguous, one might observe. And by his side an Oedipus with an early destiny of blindness. To become blinded, it is no longer necessary to physically visit the mother’s bedside after killing the father. Maybe the mother takes care of this last action, maybe the father takes care of it himself.
For Daniel, his father and his kind are in any case past and dead. The mother and her gender are, on the contrary, the present and the future, yet things happened between the two. Is there a search for truth and a past value that, today even more than yesterday, resists the future? This can be said to show the film, without saying much about how it arrives at this demonstration and what form it takes.
This also applies to the corresponding expressions and the corresponding languages: in history, side by side, there is a (national) language of the past, precipitated and a (transnational) one of the present and the future. The film does not hide it, as has been said, and indeed thematizes it: a clash between expressions and therefore between languages ​​is what Anatomie d’une chute he allegorically stages it. The fate of this conflict has already been decided for some time and its representation consists only and possibly in the vague anatomy of a fall. On the one hand, the English-speaking Sandra, who is not even English and is a continental European, but for whom English is perfectly suited to the pursuit and achievement of success, with an efficiency that could be described as mechanical and which, to others silent annoyance, he even finds, as he admits, an opportunity for natural and, in his opinion, unpunishable plagiarism. On the other hand, of French expression, Samuel, the personification of a literary and, in this particular case, cinematic culture that has become hopelessly and angrily barren.
Compared to the glories of a grand and, in its own way, culturally imperial past, a national linguistic culture has been in obvious decline for a long time. Better: that the fall already has the fatal effect. Suicide or not? No one can say.

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