A Cannes Winner Asks: What if the Powerful Woman Isn’t Punished?

Justine Triet, the writer and director behind this year’s Palme d’Or winner, “Anatomy of a Fall,” makes movies about the misadventures of working girls and the double standards faced by mothers who have the audacity to be, well, unmotherly. Triet has directed romcoms, relationship dramas and now, a courtroom whodunit: all magnify the fears and anxieties of women who work and play hard.

Movies about victims are off the table.

“I’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of films in which women are violated, killed, chopped up — films that say ‘look at this poor, suffering woman,’” Triet said recently over a drink in Midtown Manhattan. “Why should I make another one?”

Instead, “Anatomy of a Fall,” the fourth feature by the 45-year-old French filmmaker, places a powerful woman on trial and asks: How does a reversal of gender roles transform the way we perceive guilt and innocence?

Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is an acclaimed novelist and translator; she’s cocky, bisexual and her flinty gaze could scatter a crowd. She’s a German living in a multistory chalet in the French alps with her French husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) and their 11-year old son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), who is blind. Samuel is a writer, too — his career is just not as important.

In “Anatomy of a Fall,” Sandra Hüller plays a writer who stands trial over the death of her husband.Credit…NEON

In the film’s opening sequence, we see Sandra being interviewed by a female graduate student as a steel drum version of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” plays on deafening repeat. The music — blasted vengefully by Samuel from an upper room — cuts Sandra’s flirty discussion short. Tensions are high, so when Daniel finds his father, face up on the snow, dead after a tumble from the top floor window, Sandra becomes the sole suspect.

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