'Anatomy of a Fall' director shares insights with Chinese audience

Writer:   |  Editor: Zhang Zeling  |  From:   |  Updated: 2024-04-02

A scene from "Anatomy of a Fall." File photos

Acclaimed French drama "Anatomy of a Fall," winner of the Palme d'Or, hit theaters on the Chinese mainland over the weekend.

The film, co-written and directed by Justine Triet, depicts the intricacies of a relationship breakdown through extensive courtroom scenes. It features a strong, career-driven female lead accused of contributing to her husband’s demise.

At the film’s premiere in Beijing on March 24, Triet shared her insights on the role of feminism in the film industry. “The identity of being a female is indispensable in creating films,” she said.

Explaining further, Triet highlighted the unique value that a female protagonist brings to the narrative. “This film revolves around a female protagonist, whose perspective shapes the story, adding depth and authenticity,” she stated.

French director Justine Triet (C) talks with Peking University professor Dai Jinhua (R) at the university March 24.

Echoing Triet’s sentiments, Prof. Dai Jinhua from Peking University underscored the importance of female directors in portraying gender dynamics. “Only through the lens of a female director can such issues be authentically depicted,” Dai remarked.

For many Chinese fans, the appeal of the movie, which has already obtained a high score of 8.6 points out of 10 on the popular review website Douban, lies in its ability to provoke in-depth discussion about gender inequality and stereotypes toward women, according to Beijing-based film critic Yuan Yun’er.

Dai describes the reversal of traditional roles for women and men, as demonstrated in the argument, as a very poignant point. “As a feminist, I find it thought-provoking when a man assumes a family role traditionally performed by a woman,” she says. “I believe the movie expresses this so realistically, accurately, restrainedly, and delicately because it is told through the perspective of a female director,” Dai added.

Triet hopes that this film will encourage more female viewers not to passively accept certain conventions of society, but to think and redefine their attitudes toward life. As a mother of two children, the 45-year-old director explained that the story was inspired by her curiosity to explore how her daughter, who was 10 years old at the time, would perceive family dynamics and the complexities of life.

The female protagonist, Sandra, is portrayed by German actress Sandra Huller, while the husband, Samuel, is portrayed by French actor Samuel Theis. Triet explained that there were different reasons why the characters are named after the actors.

While watching Huller in the German movie “Toni Erdmann,” a comedy about a practical joker father and his hardworking daughter, Triet was captivated by Huller’s natural and realistic acting skills and had a strong wish to collaborate with her. So, the director took a sort of strategic approach by using the actress’ name for her character, believing it might increase the chances of convincing Huller to join the cast.

“Sometimes the actors and actresses might exaggerate the suspense a bit in movies, but Huller shows no such sign of that in her performance. She adopts an almost documentary-like approach to portray her character,” Triet said.

For Theis, the name happened to be a coincidence. Triet chose him after auditioning 40 actors, and the most suitable candidate just happened to have the same name as the character.

A pivotal scene in the movie features local police officers dropping a dummy — the same height and weight as Samuel — from the chalet’s attic window while investigating the details of his death. For Triet, the inspiration for the falling man came from the animated opening sequence of U.S. TV series “Mad Men,” in which a man is seen falling from a skyscraper.

Triet’s success follows in the footsteps of Greta Gerwig, whose blockbuster “Barbie” shattered box-office records. With a string of global film awards under her belt, Triet joins the ranks of esteemed women filmmakers making waves in the industry.

The movie has garnered widespread attention online, propelling it to the second slot in the national box-office charts of new movies Friday, behind U.S. movie “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.”(China Daily, Global Times) 

​Acclaimed French drama "Anatomy of a Fall," winner of the Palme d'Or, hit theaters on the Chinese mainland over the weekend.