Rating 2¾

Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky

Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Anna Loos and Sebastian Blomberg

This German horror film (British title, ‘Anatomy’) was written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, an Austrian, and stars Franka Potente. It was released into German cinemas in February 2000, two years after ‘Run Lola Run’ and two years before ‘The Bourne Identity’, which are probably Potente’s two best-known films outside of Germany. Potente won “German Actor/Actress of the Year” at the German Film Awards in consecutive years in 1999 and 2000.

The film had a production budget a little under DEM 8.5 million, which equates to approximately €4.3 million or $6.1 million. It grossed a little over $9,500 at the box office in America, having been released into eight movie theatres in September 2000. The gross in Germany was in the region of (the equivalent of) $10.5 million, based on a little over two million admissions.

Potente plays Paula Henning, a talented and ambitious but shy medical student, who is offered a place at the University of Heidelberg Medical School. This is a genuine university –- the oldest in Germany, having been established in 1386. When she questions the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the body of a young male for dissection she begins to unravel a sickening conspiracy dating back to the medical experimentation of doctors sponsored by the Third Reich.

Paula shares a dorm room with Gretchen, a medical student who has a genius IQ, but who seems interested only in sex, thinking about sex, talking about sex and having sex with male students with perfect physiques. Gretchen’s boyfriend Hein apparently keeps his brains in his biceps, although he gives Paula hints that he hides a more sensitive side. She, meanwhile, has attracted the attentions of Casper, whose behaviour veers back and forth between madcap, idiosyncratic and sinister.

I didn’t think the film was done especially well. The premise is very promising (the film it immediately put me in mind of is ‘Coma’) and Potente is great, but the pacing is odd and I didn’t feel any real sense of intrigue or uneasiness or creepiness. It all came across to me as a little disjointed.

At a couple of random points in the film pop songs are inserted into the soundtrack –- ‘Praise You’ by Fatboy Slim, for example –- but with no obvious purpose in mind, other than seemingly to mirror archetypical American horror stereotypes.

What unfolds as Paula investigates really isn’t much of a surprise. It is possible to guess what is coming almost as soon as she arrives at Heidelberg. She makes a big deal of being at university to study and she is disparaging of the frivolous and hedonistic behaviour of the others, but then when she has discovered the truth and her life is in deadly danger she chooses this moment to finally go to the is-he-or-isn’t-he-evil Casper to spend the night and have sex. Once again, the attempt to emulate the style of an American teen horror comes to mind, but the structure just seems wrong.

I struggled a little bit to stick with the film through to the end, but it received some good reviews, so I am inclined to think I might be missing something and I should give it a second chance.

“There’s none of that stale ‘Scream’ series mugging, other film referencing, or oh-so-clever self-referencing. And that’s truly refreshing. In this way, ‘Anatomy’ seems almost pre-‘Scream’ with its naïve ‘Halloween’-era sincerity. There’s nothing dishonourable about basking in the warmth of a good, professionally executed piece of schlock cinema. ‘Anatomy’ has blood, sharp instruments, people who jump out at you from dark corners, laughs and romance. It’s a near-flawless specimen.”
Jaime Christley, Apollo Guide

My problem with this review is that Christley appears to approach this film from a less cynical perspective simply because it isn’t an American horror film. It should be noted that earlier in his review he calls it, “A bad film – an insipid, pointless and occasionally ham-fisted schlockfest.”

Is it “near-flawless” or “ham-fisted”? I don’t think it’s either, but I’m not entirely convinced he can have it both ways.


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