DiscoverLaw on FilmAnatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)
Anatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)

Anatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)

Update: 2024-03-07


Anatomy of a Fall (2023) is an acclaimed French drama directed by Justine Triet, from a screenplay she co-wrote with her real-life partner, Arthur Harari. The movie centers on the criminal trial of a writer (Sandra Hüeller) who is accused of killing her husband (Samuel Maleski) in a small town in the French Alps. The film operates on multiple levels. On one level, it dissects the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death. What caused him to fall from the window of their chalet? Was he pushed? Or did he jump? On another level, the film dissects the deteriorating marriage between Sandra and Samuel and the complex family dynamics surrounding their 11-year-old-son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner). The film offers a close look at a French criminal investigation and trial. More broadly, it raises questions about the reliability of human memory, the elusive nature of truth, and the complex relationship between law and justice. My guests to discuss Anatomy of a Fall are Fred Davis and Samuel Bettwy.


0:00      Introduction

3:59      Coming up with a defense strategy

9:17      A case about doubt

11:36   Pretrial investigations in France

15:56   Victims’ counsel (partie civile) in France

18:50   The role of the investigating magistrate

22:03   The presiding judge and the other participants at trial 

26:39   Unpacking  the seeming “chaos” in the courtroom

29:07   Why defendants testify at trial in France

34:06    Liberté de la preuve and the treatment of evidence  

39:17   The treatment of juveniles under French law

43:39   Daniel’s pivotal testimony

46:13   Appeals of acquittals by the prosecution

47:15   Influences on the director 

50:37   Expert testimony

52:51   The justice system as metaphor

Further reading:

“Anatomy of a Fall asks the question, ‘Would you like to be judged like that?,’”  (interview with Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse) (Sept. 11, 2023)

“‘Anatomy of a fall’: to judge or to administer justice?” Dalloz Actualité (Mar. 4, 2023)

Bettwy, Samuel W., Comparative Criminal Procedure Through Film: Analytical Tools & Law and Film Summaries by Legal Tradition and Country (2015)

Bordages, Anaïs, “’Anatomy of a Fall,’ the anti-trial film,” Slate (May 21, 2023)

Dervieux, Valérie-Odile, "'Anatomy of a fall' or fantasy justice," (Aug. 24, 2023)

Kirry, Antoine, Davis, Frederick T. & Bisch, Alexander, “France,” in The International Investigations Review (Nicolas Bourtin ed.) (10th ed. 2020)





Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember.
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Anatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)

Anatomy of a Fall (France) (Guests: Fred Davis and Sam Bettwy) (episode 22)

Jonathan Hafetz