Saturday, October 18, 2014

Anatomy (2000)

Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky                             Writers: Peter Engelmann & Stefan Ruzowitzky
Film Score: Marius Rhland                               Cinematography: Peter von Haller
Starring: Franka Potente, Benno Fürmann, Anna Loos and Sebastian Blomberg

Deadfall was director Stefan Ruzowitzky’s first American film, and I thought it was so good that I wanted to seek out more from him. It turned out I had already seen The Inheritors, a fantastic historical comedy-drama, and looking back at his other German films one really stood out, the horror film Anatomy, primarily because it stars Franka Potente. She has been one of my favorite actresses since first seeing her in The Bourne Identity and the German film Run Lola Run. More recently she has appeared on an episode of House, and is currently a regular on the second season of The Bridge. Unfortunately, this is not a great movie. Sort of across between Coma and Re-Animator, it feels about ten years older than it actually is, but it does have some things going for it. Chiefly, because it’s German, it doesn’t fall prey to all of the predictable American slasher film stereotypes. The acting, for the most part, is also decent, and the special effects are somewhat believable.

The film begins in Munich, with Franka Potente in an anatomy class with a professor who is something of a pervert. He lets her know that she has been selected to attend a more prestigious medical school in Heidelberg that both her father and grandfather attended. Her grandfather is sick in the hospital, while her father wants her to work in his local clinic instead of his belief that she is just chasing after money, but she goes anyway. From there the scene shifts to a man, Simon Schwarz, waking up on an operating table, horrified to see that he is being cut apart. On the train Potente runs into Anna Loos, a buxom blonde, also from the med school in Munich, and Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, a young man with a heart problem. Once at the new school she is told to meet in the anatomy lab with the other new students. There she sees a dead body move and while the other women are scared off, she discovers that some of the male students have wired the body in order to scare them. Later, Schwering is kidnapped at a bar and wakes up on the table himself. When the head doctor in Heidelberg, Traugott Buhre, reveals Schwering on the slab, Potente gets suspicious and begins hunting for answers. The audience, however, knows that the anatomy museum at the school is being peopled by unwilling victims, and that Potente doesn’t know what she’s getting into.

The screenplay by Ruzowitzky and Peter Engelmann draws primarily on Coma for influence. Potente is the woman in peril, walking into an ongoing medical nightmare in which a secret society of doctors is breaking the law and killing healthy people. At the same time, however, there is a sterility to the sets, beginning with the dissecting lab in Munich and becoming even more so in the anatomy lab in Heidelberg. That part of the film, and its attendant special effects, feels more like Re-Animator. Still, Franka Potente does as good a job as she can, considering the screenplay. She doesn’t have the depth of character to draw on or a naturalistic setting to work against to pull it off. Sebastian Blomberg, as Potente’s boyfriend does a much better job than Benno Fürmann, the jealous boyfriend of Anna Loos. The one standout scene is Loos and Holger Speckhahn going into the lab at night for a sexual anatomy lesson, but the film lapses back into predictability shortly after and therefore can’t build on that energy. Anatomy is slick and stylish, but short on character development. It’s of interest to fans of Franka Potente, but not something I will probably return to.

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