Why Anatomy of a Fall Became One of the Most Memed Films of the Year

Photographs: Neon; Collage: Gabe Conte

The French legal drama Anatomy of a Fall has become a runaway success by metrics both critical and commercial. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, swept the Césars, and earned $30.7 million against its $6.7 million budget at the box office in the US alone (no small feat for an indie film showing at limited theaters). At the Oscars this coming Sunday, it’s up for multiple awards, conspicuously eliding the best international feature film category to compete in best director for Justine Triet, best actress for Sandra Hüller, best original screenplay, best editing, and best picture.

Perhaps less prestigious: Anatomy of a Fall is also the unlikely contender for the most memed movie of the year.

The slow-burning film circles around whether a writer named Sandra (Hüller) is guilty of murdering her husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis), after he takes a fatal tumble out of the window of their chalet in the French Alps. It forces us to consider the unstable nature of truth and memory, and excavates the fraught gender power dynamics within a marriage. Not exactly the sort of light, irreverent stuff that gets the internet machine going—and yet.

Anatomy of a Fall has inspired a vast spectrum of memefication around the world. We’ve got a wildly popular fancam (an appreciative montage of a single performer set to music) from French user @ginafancam of Sandra’s lawyer Vincent, played by Swann Arlaud. Then a follow-up of his courtroom rival, the deliciously bitchy prosecutor played by Antoine Reinartz. Niche jokes on the haircuts sported by son and key witness Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) and his court-appointed monitor Marge (Jehnny Beth). Niche mash-up videos in which beloved rapper Megan Thee Stallion pushes Samuel out the chalet window.

Meanwhile, Sandra’s “You are not a victim” speech—a pivotal point of the film in which she’s heard excoriating Samuel for blaming her for being more successful than him—quickly went viral. Read one way, it contains the sort of psychoanalytic terminology the internet eats up; read another, it’s a welcome repudiation of all the worst parts of therapy-speak.

The audio took off on TikTok after being posted by The Good Films, an account which is run by Sandro Gogidze from the nation of Georgia. “It did not surprise me at all that this scene became popular on TikTok and Instagram, because along with Sandra’s professional performance, the topic she talks about can be relevant to viewers of any age—they can see themselves in her monologue,” he told me in an email. At the time we spoke, it had 2.5 million views on TikTok and 6.4 million on Instagram.

The Good Films’s post, which also took the artistic liberty to include nameless funky music that crescendos as the monologue gets more intense, became a source of inspiration. Mike Messineo, an Australian creator known for his YouTube TV recap channel Mike’s Mic, made his own video in which he lip-synchs the speech before being so overcome that he must break into dance. It has nearly 850,000 views.

“I’d actually seen that particular clip of Sandra Hüller’s monologue on Twitter before I watched the film so I knew it was going to be iconic, and it was!” Messineo told me in an email. “An important thing to know about me is I love an actress doing a monologue.… I was searching through the Anatomy of a Fall hashtag to see if anyone had started lip-synching the monologue (and of course they had), but then I found that particular audio that for some reason had a bit of pizzazz. Who doesn’t love a low-key beat drop during dialogue of a husband and wife arguing about relationship power dynamics? It felt so ridiculous that I had to join in.” He added that seeing Hüller’s monologue floating around the internet beforehand made him want to see the movie more.

So how, exactly, does a French art house drama swing all the way to becoming a TikTok sensation?

For starters, the movie does include some flourishes that are inherently funny, if not patently ridiculous. Take, for instance, the music that Samuel is playing at full volume at the start of the film—a song that, as is argued by the courtroom, either showcased Samuel’s misogyny or irritated Sandra to the point where she was frustrated enough to commit murder. The contentious song? Why, a steel band cover of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.”

“I think the song is aggressive because we hear it a lot of times,” director Justine Triet told GQ back in October. “But it’s quite funny at the same time, no?”

Less funny, but still irresistible? Dogs. Messi, the border collie who plays Snoop in Anatomy of a Fall, has become the breakout star of this interminable awards season.

He was flown out to the annual Oscar nominees luncheon, where Ryan Gosling and Billie Eilish jostled for his attention. He even has a literal underdog backstory. “Messi was a misunderstood artist. He had a lot of trouble getting roles. He always went to the end of the auditions but was never accepted, often because of his [unusual] look and his eyes,” his owner and trainer told GQ. While Bradley Cooper has appeared to have gone increasingly mad during this Oscars campaign (crying about Leonard Bernstein, sharing overly personal anecdotes), Messi has become more of a sensation—without having to utter a single word.

The four-legged celebrity has become so popular that while I hastily scrolling past a post Kim Kardashian made on X in which she wrote “Saint walking Messi out on the field tonight,” I thought at first that her son was accompanying the Anatomy of a Fall dog instead of the world-renowned soccer champion.

Messi’s attending the Oscars luncheon also indicates savviness on film distributor Neon’s part. “Did we think [the film] would turn into all of these memes? I don’t know if we thought it would be memed as much,” Bianca Moran Parkes, Neon’s head of design, told me. “We just knew it was going to be a conversation starter.”

Neon is a newer studio, one that works in the independent space, and it was quick to capitalize on what was catching on with viewers. “I mean, we did bring out the dog for the Oscars luncheon, and that definitely broke the internet,” she said.

“The memeification of Anatomy of a Fall was not something we designed or anticipated—it was 100% organic and created by people that genuinely loved the film,” Moran Parkes added. “Even though it won the Palme d'Or, it was very much an outlier, a film that ran counter to the big budget studio features. Like Parasite, it became a film people embraced because it wasn't part of the machine. It's mysterious, unconventional, and ambiguous. And that resonated. More than anything, though, it's a testament to Justine's brilliance and how young audiences embraced these characters, identified with them, and made them their own.”

This is also the era of Letterboxd, as Jack King recently explored in a piece for British GQ. To be a film enthusiast in 2024 often involves performing and sharing said enthusiasm for the internet. People raving about something, even wrapped up in the guise of irony, is enough to stoke curiosity, which then gets more people to watch and be part of the conversation.

“In my experience the films that typically get memed are either really terrible (Madame Web), so huge that they’re everywhere (Barbie), or have a cast stacked with familiar faces so the memes cast a wide net for potential sharing. Anatomy of a Fall doesn’t fit into any of those categories,” Messineo, the YouTuber who made the dancing video to Hüller’s monologue, told me. Instead, he suggested, it has “if you know you know” appeal.

“People who have seen the movie love it and know other people also love it, so they make content about it to create a sort of online movie club dialogue. I’ve seen similar internet ripples around The Holdovers, but not to the same extent,” Messineo added. “Maybe if The Holdovers had a dog things would be different.”

This story has been updated with additional quotes from Neon.

Originally Appeared on GQ

More Great Stories from GQ