By Lillian Crawford
Anatomy of a Fall is punctuated by the broken sound of Chopin’s fourth prelude. The piece descends down the melody line, with disruption, repetition and frustration, only resolving in the final bars towards an E-minor chord. It is a piece about death and despair, and the impossibility of knowing what is to come. The prelude is practised by young Daniel Maleski (Milo Machado-Graner) as he learns to play the piano, sometimes with the lending hand of his mother, the novelist Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller). It is an elegant and simple device to reflect the fractured ebbs and flows of the film, including the openness of its last notes.
Every person who listens to a Chopin prelude will form a different interpretation. We each experience varying synaesthetic images and emotions when listening to music, and so too with language. Daniel’s haphazard tinkering with Chopin is not dissimilar to his mother’s attempts to speak French: she, like Hüller, is German, has lived in London, and is now in a chalet in the mountains of Grenoble. Her placement in France – the homeland of her husband Samuel Maleski (Samuel Theis) – is a compromise fraught with conflict. Her reluctance to learn its language is shown to be a resistance to the permanence of life there. This is taken to an extreme when Daniel comes home from walking his dog Snoop to discover his father dead outside the house, leaving the question of whether he fell, jumped or Sandra murdered him, which drives the film.