Justine Triet • Director of Anatomy of a Fall
"The balance of her possible guilt and innocence hangs by a thread”
- CANNES 2023: The French filmmaker describes her new film, a successful journey into a very unique genre film
Having already competed in the Cannes Festival in 2019 with Sybil [+see also:
interview: Justine Triet
film profile], French filmmaker Justine Triet is back in the running this year for the Palme d'Or with her fourth feature, Anatomy of a Fall [+see also:
interview: Justine Triet
Cineuropa: This is the first time you have tackled a dramatic subject head on. What attracted you to this subject?
Justine Triet : My previous films were already about the male-female relationship and I had already made a film about a trial, but I told myself that if I were to make one again, I would want us to spend a lot of time on the smallest details of the trial. Then, as soon as I got into the genre and I knew that the film would be quite "strong", as soon as I had the idea of dissecting this couple in a trial, I said to myself and Arthur Harari, with whom I wrote the script, that it wouldn't be a half-comedy. I knew in any case that if I made a film about a trial, it would not be a comedy, and this had been a wish for a long time.
Why this attraction to the judicial topic?
There is something I find wonderful and at the same time totally distressing about the space of the court and justice, and that is the idea that our lives are being told for us and that the chaos of people's lives is being reorganised to tell it. And they don't tell the truth: it's fiction, a narrative, like a magnifying mirror, a magnifying glass that looks at the smallest details of our lives, giving meaning to the most insignificant. It's this whole aspect of dissecting the smallest piece of people's existence to explain a criminal act or other that I find fascinating. And it is often also the place that reflects society, its deepest thinking, the way we can see men and women, the way we can reduce them to an image. In this case, Sandra, my main character, is quite badly treated by the public prosecutor in relation to her life and the way she lives her life.
Within the couple, there was above all a desire to explore the woman? The woman as a mother, as a companion, etc.?
I've always done that, but this time even more so. I wanted to show a woman who is confident in her way of life, to be on an equal footing with the person with whom she lives and perhaps even to take up more space. I also question the couple; how do you live together? Give each other things while being equal? Tell each other the truth without being violent? It's complicated in reality and we see this in the film because when we tell the truth to each other, it's extremely violent and it's also love. How do you live when you have children? And when you create, it's even more complicated, with this side of vampirisation of the other. All this was at the origin of the project: to tell the story of a character who assumes a form of freedom in her bisexuality, in her way of considering things, and also a form of violence in her way of assuming this because she knows that if she doesn't take up this space, no one will give it to her. It's quite feminist, but when I look around me, women who manage to do what they want in their job and who have children and a family are often women who impose their choices. When I say that, it gives the impression that I have made an extremely naturalistic film about a couple who organise themselves to do the shopping (laughs).
Precisely, how did you work on the genre film level?
From the start, I had the narrative fabric, the plot. I knew that it would be the trial of a woman accused of murder and that we would never know the truth. I find it much more interesting that the truth is hunted down at the trial but that we will never get it. The big job was done very formally. Because we are so saturated with films and documentaries about "crime stories", that we had to find a form of writing and how to get into it. The idea of the sound archive came up very quickly. When we live together today, there are a lot of recordings, often videos, but I found it more interesting to remove this and be on sound archives. It also allowed me to marry the perception of the couple's visually impaired child in the film. It gave a coherence between this child who doesn't know and the fact that someone is not there because there is only one flashback in the film, just a vision, and we try to fill everything else with hypotheses. But this sound piece is obviously completely distorting the situation of this couple because it's a very particular moment of intense emotions. So the idea was to enter a film that would be very complicated to understand and to be enlightened progressively, touch by touch, on what we didn't understand, notably the first very confusing scene that will be dissected later at the trial. I also wanted us to have the feeling that we were gradually discovering Sandra's main character at the same time as she escapes us, that we never get to know exactly who she is. The balance of her possible guilt and innocence hangs by a thread and that was a real challenge and a real piece of work in the script.
What about the mountain setting? And your main staging intentions?
The obsession with falling, up and down all the time, trying to understand how this body fell. I've been obsessed for ten years with the credits of Mad Men, I think it's almost a film in itself, with this man who keeps falling, who never crashes. The direction is very stylised because making a film about a trial means inserting yourself into an iconography, into a rather important history of cinema. And more broadly, to take the opposite view of Sybil, I wanted to make a film that was the least clean, the least polished, the least held together as possible.
(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.