When Paula (Franka Potente, Run Lola Run), a brilliant, ambitious medical student, is accepted into a prestigious anatomy class taught by a legendary professor, it seems like a dream come true. But her school days soon turn to nightmares when several of her fellow classmates turn up dead in the university’s morgue. Puzzled by the bizarre deaths, Paula soon uncovers a secret medical society whose members perform grisly autopsies on human subjects – while they are still alive – and is plunged into a chillingly macabre world from which no one escapes to tell the terrifying truth.
eyelights: Franke Potente. the “mummified” display corpses.
eyesores: the lapses in logic. the curious pacing.
As a fan of ‘Run Lola Run’, I have been mildly curious to know what Franke Potente has been up to. I watched ‘Der Krieger und die Kaiserin’, was pleasantly surprised to see her in the first two Jason Bourne films, and enjoyed her in ‘Romulus, My Father’. But, otherwise, have not seen her in much.
I had heard about ‘Anatomy’, however, and it was on my radar. I came close to picking it up once, but the back of the DVD jacket gave me the impression that it would be a paint-by-numbers thriller – the kind that I’ve seen far too many of over the years. It didn’t mean it would be bad, just a superfluous experience.
Still, I ended up getting it based solely on the fact that it’s a german thriller with Franke Potente in it. Who knows, right?
Sigh… I should have followed my first instinct.
‘Anatomie’ is, in fact, a thriller like many before it. If one wanted to get a sense of what to expect, one merely has to look at ‘The Skulls’ as reference (coincidentally, they were both released the same year). While ‘Anatomie’ isn’t shot as sombrely as ‘The Skulls’ was, and follows a different path, it has a similar vibe – both taking place in a prestigious university, with the lead being a student who has to contend with a secret society at the heart of the institution.
They both also cater to younger viewers, in that there’s a tendency towards frat humour and a focus on sex – in this case embodied in Potente’s best friend, the supposedly luscious Gretchen (who, to me, looked like a tired old stripper. Or Pamela Anderson. Can’t tell the difference…). There’s also a tendency to try to make it hip by incorporating cool songs (ex: Fatboy Slim’s well-worn “Praise You”) or familiar-sounding generic pop/rock/dance numbers.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea behind the film, and I love the setting, it’s just that this production felt like a desperate attempt to cash in on the teen/young adult market. Furthermore, it’s marred by an uneven flow, becoming a thriller, than grinding to halt to be romantic, then turning into a drama, then turning into a horror, …etc. It just doesn’t work very well as a whole, flip-flopping like that without any true cohesion between moments.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
And Let’s not even get started on the ridiculousness of some of the plot contrivances!Oh, okay. Let’s.A little.
The prime example of how forced it got is when Potente and her then-new friend, Gretchen, meet David, a boy who happens to be going to their university at the same time as they are. But not to study – to be tested for his heart condition, which makes him lose consciousness in a near-dead state.
He has an attack, but, Lucky for him, Potente is right there to help him and saves the day. Phew!
Later, he gets knocked out by our mysterious killers while in the john of an incredibly full bar. He is dragged out by the killer, and no one bothers to pay attention to this aside for the waitress, who thinks David is drunk.
Then David turns up on the slab in Potente’s anatomy class, giving her fuel enough to start digging into the darkness at the heart of the university. Mother of all coincidences!
Or how about the absurdity of going to the dissection room to make out with a new beau, as Gretchen does? Is that an obvious invitation to danger, per chance? Or, at the very least, could it give a few ideas to some creepy killers, do you think?
Watch the movie and try to be stunned by what happens next! I dares ya!
And, to make matters worse, the love scene, which revolves around a faux-strip number on a slab, is anything but sexy. And it had nothing to do with the cold, stainless-steel setting whatsoever. Or the proto-dance music.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Also, the film’s use of a red herring was so poor that it was all too clear that the suggested killer wasn’t really the killer. So why bother? It barely served as a distraction, as obvious as it was (of the two true red herrings, one had the spotlight on him, so it couldn’t be him, and the other one was too fat).
And it was clear from the onset that there were at least two people involved. Yet the film focused on only one of them, perhaps hoping that we’d forget that there was another one loose out there. Um… which is impossible to do, given that he’s always lurking about indiscreetly in the shadows – we’re consistently reminded that stopping one killer doesn’t stop the massacre from going on.
The only thing I truly appreciated in the whole film were the ingenious mummies that the university used for observation. They were all real humans that had donated their bodies to science (at least, one presumed that they were donations) and someone painstakingly stripped them of skin, fat, muscle and bones in various areas to show off the bodies’ inner structures. There were even hinged parts and removable bits, which made these preserved cadavers puzzle-like. I found this both disturbing and utterly fascinating. And, while this was mere set-dressing, it was by far the thing that capture my interest the most.
Because, in the end, ‘Anatomie’ is a good idea that was poorly put together. I’m not surprised that it was successful enough to get a sequel, but I can see how this concept would have lost momentum rather quickly, given that sequels rarely build on the original offering. I might possibly watch ‘Anatomie’ again someday, but it would have to be in a while from now. Heck, I didn’t even bother with ANY of the special features on the DVD; that’s how indifferent I am to it. To put things in perspective, I would watch ‘The Skulls’ again, imperfect as it is, before this – and ‘Anatomie’ ain’t no ‘The Skulls’.
Date of viewing: October 1, 2012