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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/16/01

Anatomy (a.k.a. Anatomie)
Special Edition - 2000 (2001) - Deutsche Columbia TriStar Filmproduktion (Columbia TriStar)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Anatomy: Special Edition Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A

Specs and Features

99 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 42:59, in chapter 15), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky (in German with English subtitles), 2 deleted scenes, music video for My Truth by Anna Loos, storyboard comparison of scene in chapter 19, talent files for Franka Potente and Stefan Ruzowitzky, "making-of" featurette (in DD 2.0 German with English subtitles), make-up featurette (in DD 2.0 German with English subtitles), production photo loop with music, English dubbed teaser trailer, theatrical trailers (for Anatomy (English dubbed), Circus and Run Lola Run), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DD 2.0), French (DD 2.0) and German (DD 5.1 & DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French

Young doctor's apprentice Paula Henning (Run Lola Run's Franka Potente) has just been accepted to a very exclusive anatomy class in Heidelberg, Germany. She's a third-generation doctor, and the granddaughter of a very famous physician (who also attended Heidelberg and made quite a name for himself there). The tree-laced countryside is incredibly beautiful, all of her classmates are attractive (and sexually eager) and the promise of her medical future is very bright.

But everything isn't what it seems. Heidelberg happens to be the home of an ancient lodge of doctors and students who have disavowed the world-known Hippocratic oath. They instead choose to perform grotesque experiments on human beings, in order to preserve the tissues for study (they turn the bodies into "invisible man"-style medical mannequins, where all the body fat and fluids are flushed out and plastized). But to do this, they need to work on still-living "patients" (death, it seems, foils the process). Their main principle is that the deaths of a few will eventually help ensure the survival of many. And, of course, Paula stumbles into this maniacal plot and faces certain death.

It's actually a pretty neat set-up. The film is sort of modeled after Scream and other films of that ilk - we don't know who the "killer" is, what his association to the school is, why he's killing and who he will kill next. So Paula stumbles into the plot, and has to put 2 and 2 together before she ends up like some of her friends, who are falling all around her. Unfortunately, as neat as the set-up is, Anatomy ultimately fails. It tries to do what Luc Besson did with his film La Femme Nikita (which is to bring American ideals to foreign cinema), and even though Germans invented the idea of the horror film, they don't seem to grasp how the new generation of bubblegum slasher flicks work. There's not enough shock, not enough uncomfortable pacing and certainly not enough blood. We also get to see who the killer is rather quickly, which blows the whole thing because the film then becomes a sort of character study instead of a balls-out horror flick. And who needs character in a horror film anyway? You'd think that a horror film, set in essentially a morgue, would be scary and ripe with potentially eye-shutting horror. But nope... not here, at least. Anatomy's plot is actually a cool enough concept, that I'll dare to utter the one thing fans of foreign cinema hate the most: I'd like to see this redone as an American horror film.

But if the film fails, thankfully, the DVD doesn't. Here, we get a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer, with tight grain, good colors and solid darks. It's a very pleasing picture and another great transfer from Columbia. As far as sound, we get English (in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 surround), as well as the original German (also in 5.1 and 2.0 surround). This is a splendid film audio-wise, with lots of metallic sounds, drips and screams, so you'll hear plenty of action in the mix, both up front and in the rear. The English dub is as good as you're going to get, but we suggest listening to the film in its original German (if you can stomach reading as you watch).

But where this little disc really shines is with the extras. Surprisingly, this thing is packed. First, we get an audio commentary with writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky, which is in German with English subtitles. Who'd of thunk it, right? But it works. For this, if you set the film audio to English, you can just tag on the subtitles for the commentary and read them as you watch the film. It's pretty cool, and Ruzowitzky gives a lot of information as to the how's and why's of the film. There's also 2 deleted scenes (which don't add much), a music video for My Truth by Anna Loos (who is also featured IN the film), a storyboard comparison of a death scene found in chapter 19, some talent files for Franka Potente and Ruzowitzky, and a couple of "making-of" featurettes (both in 2.0 German audio with English subtitles) - one on the production and one on the make-up. You'll also find a production photo loop with music from the film, an English dubbed teaser trailer and theatrical trailers for Anatomy (also English dubbed), the quirky British heist flick Circus and Run Lola Run. It's all good stuff and sheds a vast sunbeam on the making of a German horror film. Hey... I was curious.

Anatomy isn't the greatest horror film, but it's certainly better than most straight-to-video fare. Check this DVD out for a good lesson in how a film can either succeed or fail, depending on the choices made by a director and his/her team. Potente is also pretty good here - you'll hardly recognize her as a frumpy student. And you'll definitely enjoy the solid set of extras, which have an interesting language twist. All the way around, this is a solid disc that's worth a look.

Todd Doogan
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