- The true cause of Samuel’s death in Anatomy of a Fall remains ambiguous, leaving uncertainty and speculation.
- Daniel’s changing testimony raises doubts about his credibility and his motives in protecting his mother, Sandra.
- The existence of an audio recording and its possible implications add complexity to the case, blurring the lines between truth and manipulation.
At the end of Anatomy of a Fall, Sandra is acquitted, although the facts of the case still aren’t entirely clear, making the true cause of Samuel’s death ambiguous. Anatomy of a Fall is a legal drama from French director Justine Triet, featuring performances from Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Samuel Theis, Milo Machado Graner, and more. Anatomy of a Fall is a popular awards movie, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and nominated in four categories at the 2024 Golden Globes.
After the mysterious death of her husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis), Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) becomes the prime suspect. Sandra’s best defense is to claim Samuel died by suicide, which even she tells her lawyer, Vincent (Swann Arlaud) is implausible at first, and the only person who can back up her version of events is her blind son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) When an audio recording revealed in court proves she was also covering up evidence of domestic turmoil, her son, Daniel’s last-second addition to his testimony is the only thing that gets her off the hook.
Was Daniel Lying to Protect His Mom?
Why did Daniel change his testimony twice?
Initially, Daniel said he heard Sandra and Samuel having a casual conversation as he walked past the shed to walk the dog, Snoop. He was positive he was standing next to the shed because of the texture of the tape Samuel put there for him to identify the location. When the investigators tried to recreate the scenario to determine how loud Sandra and Samuel had to be talking to match his story, Samuel suddenly changed his testimony to say he was inside the front door. It’s entirely possible recreating the moment jogged his memory, but it’s also conspicuous that he changed his story to maintain a favorable outlook for Sandra.
Daniel says his memories returned to him again at the last second, providing a new testimony about Snoop eating aspirin from Samuel’s vomit to back up Sandra’s claim of an alleged suicide attempt. Once again, Daniel’s testimony is conveniently altered to favor Sandra’s version of events, which supported a suicide theory Sandra didn’t even initially agree with when strategizing with Vincent. Daniel’s story is plausible, but his odd behavior, asking Sandra to leave the house, and having Snoop eat aspirin before changing his story invites skepticism, especially considering his story could be what got her off the hook.
Did Samuel Try to Frame Sandra For His Death?
Why was Samuel even recording their argument?
The audio recording Samuel makes of his fight with Sandra is one of the most damning pieces of evidence against her, especially since she tried to cover up the fact that they fought at all, but its very existence calls other factors into question. As Sandra says, it’s possible Samuel provoked the fight in order to get a recording of it. If that’s true, the recording may have been intended for use as literary inspiration, but if he’d already begun contemplating suicide (as his alleged previous suicide attempt would indicate), then the recording may have also been an attempt to implicate Sandra in his death.
Considering he was aware of the recording and Sandra wasn’t, his accusations against her, while containing legitimate frustrations, could also be performative, knowing the recording would be discovered and played in court after his death. If he was legitimately jealous and resentful of Sandra’s success, particularly after she used one of his novel ideas in her own writing, the claims made in the recording tarnish her professionally, in addition to the hit her reputation would take from being indicted in the first place. Granted, Sandra tells Vincent his depiction of Samuel’s “final year” wasn’t an accurate reflection, so she may not agree with that theory, although the existence of the recording makes it plausible.
Why Wasn’t Sandra Happy She Won?
If she’s innocent, she has new things to worry about. If she’s guilty…
After Sandra is acquitted, she goes to dinner with Vincent and says she feels weird because there’s normally a reward for winning. While avoiding a conviction is certainly a form of reward for her, if she’s innocent then she’s now left to process Samuel’s suicide for the first time. Sandra initially disagreed with the idea that Samuel died by suicide and even disagreed with Vincent’s depiction of “Samuel’s final year” as presented in court, so for that to be the theory that exonerates her leaves Sandra to process complicated emotions associated with her husband’s death for the first time, or may even leave her wondering for some other cause.
On the other hand, if Sandra truly did kill Samuel, she now has to live a lie for the rest of her life, including lying to Daniel. Additionally, if she was lying about Samuel’s suicide to cover up her involvement, Daniel may have also been lying to back her up, in which case she knows Daniel is aware of her deception, meaning she may never truly escape her guilt as Daniel will be a constant reminder, and fear of his knowledge of her guilt would eat away at her forever as well.
Why None of Anatomy of a Fall’s Evidence Really Make Sense
Why the ending of Anatomy of a Fall is so ambiguous.
Unfortunately, there’s no clean explanation for what truly happened to Samuel, and while Sandra may have certainty of her own guilt or innocence, it may not be possible for anyone else, including Daniel, to ever truly trust her version of events. For example, the blood splatter and autopsy indicate he was likely struck with a weapon before he fell, but at the same time, it’s improbably that Sandra was able to lift and push him over the edge in the way the prosecutor indicated. No single theory fully accounts for both the blood splatter and the body falling where it did.
Daniel’s testimony is equally shaky, especially considering his own conflict of interest. He knows his testimony could be the strongest factor in influencing his mother’s guilt or innocence, but he doesn’t know if he can fully trust his mom, which is why he seeks advice from Marge (Jehnny Beth), who unfortunately can’t comment on the case to him. Memory is fallible, so his multiple shifting testimonies are easy to explain, but the fact that his testimony always shifts in favor of Sandra and only in response to evidence that looks bad for her, makes it look like he’s changing his story to protect her.
As the audience, we know even more than the investigators and prosecution, making Sandra’s position even more complicated. On one hand, she doubted the suicide theory from the start, but if she were guilty she should be more eager to support the strongest alibi. Looking closely at the shed after Samuel falls in the beginning of the movie, there appears to be a point of impact where his head could have hit, aligning with the defense’s blood splatter theory, but it’s still not enough to provide any decisive conclusion about the true nature of Samuel’s death.
At the end of Anatomy of a Fall, there’s still a lot of ambiguity around how Samuel died and how truthful Sandra and Daniel are being. The ambiguity shows just how complicated perspective can make things, making the fact that the only “eyewitness” testimony available comes from Sandra’s blind son. As Sandra tells Samuel’s therapist: “What you say is just a part of the whole situation. You know. I mean, sometimes a couple is kind of a chaos and everybody is lost.” At the end of Anatomy of a Fall, we only have partial, fractured stories, leaving both the court and the audience to fill in the blanks.