Paula Henning (Franka Potente) is a bright, young student from a long line of doctors, when she is admitted to the prestigious German medical school, Heidelberg. Things begin to turn strange and deadly for her friends, when an acquaintance’s dead body shows up one day in their anatomy class with some peculiar characteristics. Anatomy was a huge hit in its native land of Germany, though the medical thriller more closely adheres to the standard Hollywood formula than one might think. The tension of the first two acts devolves into typical slasher territory by its final act.
Medical thrillers briefly became a popular genre in the ’90s and Anatomy looked to capitalize on that trend. Paula becomes friendly with Gretchen (Anna Loos), a sex-crazed medical student. Gretchen is more concerned with boys than her studies and becomes temporarily infatuated with a handsome medical student, Hein (Benno Fürmann). Paula has a developing relationship with Caspar (Sebastian Blomberg), another student in her medical classes.
The mystery really begins when the corpse of a new friend, one that Paula personally rescued from a heart attack, shows up to be dissected in their anatomy class. Questioning his death almost immediately, she is stymied in her efforts to find out the real cause of death by her professor, Grombek. Sending a sample of the victim’s blood to a friend’s lab, it returns a banned drug meant for taxidermists.
Heidelberg’s medical school is a world-class institution and its most prominent feature is a rare collection of plasticized human specimens, intended for anatomical study. Easily the most chilling moments in the film are vivid displays of dissected human corpses down to their internal organs, making Anatomy a graphic medical thriller.
Paula starts snooping around the medical school and uncovers a conspiracy, going back to an underground medical society called the Anti-Hippocrates. The Anti-Hippocrates believe that ethical concerns should not play a part in medical research, recalling the horrors of some Nazi doctors in the Second World War.
As Paula gets more and more involved into uncovering the conspiracy of silence, more and more of her friends start disappearing or showing up dead. This is the point in which Anatomy turns from a taut thriller with an air of mystery, toward a fairly predictable story about a psychotic killer. The final third is a bit of a disappointment in its twists and turns, given the building narrative of the first two acts. Writer and director Stefan Ruzowitzky does his best to maintain the early sense of dread and suspense, but the machinations of the secret society end up being inconsistent.
Anatomy is a decent thriller in the modern mold, effectively using its German setting. Responses to it will largely depend on how one feels about some of the twists in the story, which don’t always make sense.
Anatomy was first released back in 2000, which was before the era of digital intermediates in the production chain for movies. Mill Creek has sourced the high-definition transfer for Anatomy from a German or European distributor, given the credits on it running in German. What we have here is a serviceable-looking Blu-ray that certainly shouldn’t wow anyone.
This master looks entirely different in scope from Sony’s original DVD, from possibly different film elements. It is a true HD-transfer taken from a legitimate film source, though by its looks appears to be an older telecine transfer made from an IP or film print. This is not the strongest possible presentation for the Super 35mm movie, but should tide its fans over for the moment given the budget pricing.
Sharing a single BD-50 with its sequel, Anatomy 2, the main feature has been encoded in AVC at moderate bitrates for the somewhat grainy print. Anatomy runs 99:21 minutes in length and is presented in its proper theatrical aspect ratio of 2:35:1, at a resolution of 1080P. The pervasive grain displays some moderate macroblocking and noise, largely due to the compression encoding parameters. The dense grain structure has been mildly accentuated by a very small degree of edge enhancement, particularly in the final act. The ringing that results is largely unnoticeable, since the film-like transfer has been left untouched by digital noise reduction.
Anatomy is not the sharpest picture experience. The German production’s Super 35mm cinematography has some minor problems with interior lighting, outside of a few medical locations. Minor amounts of black crush produce questionable shadow delineation at times, especially when Paula is running through the bowels of the medical school. Overall clarity and detail demonstrate modest improvements over standard definition video.
The murky lighting affects the contrast at times. It is fine inside the brightly-lit operating rooms. Anatomy does not display any sort of pumped-up contrast, often preferring a darker and heavier presentation. The color palette leans toward warmer tones of brown and yellow, though flesh-tones are erratic.
Mill Creek has not dug up a poor transfer for Anatomy, but the movie can almost certainly look better in 1080P. Aside from transient issues due to a hint of dust and debris on the print, the video quality is suitable enough for an upgrade over your DVD copy.
Sony used the English-dubbed soundtrack for Anatomy when it was theatrically released in America. Anatomy was a German production and the English dub for it is laughably poor. The voice actress handling Paula’s role is so out of sync with the movie’s tone and action, that it almost turns Anatomy from a taut thriller to a comedy. If you want to enjoy Anatomy, one needs to watch the provided German soundtrack.
Unfortunately on this double-feature disc, Mill Creek has chosen to give Anatomy’s native German soundtrack a lossy presentation. It is in 5.1 Dolby Digital at 384 kbps, though it lacks the fidelity and power of the English soundtrack in a more fitting 5.1 DTS-HD MA option. One must accept an inferior presentation of the native audio on this disc to reasonably enjoy the film. The surround mix is a combination of cliché horror and suspense cues, though it works for the most part in delivering heightened terror and panic. Dialogue is clean and clear, in a solid balance with the predictable score and the few Pop songs sprinkled into the audio.
A French dub is another selection, presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital at 192 kbps. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided in a white font. The subtitles always remain within the framing of the film.
Mill Creek has not included any special features on this Blu-ray aside from including the sequel, Anatomy 2. The original Sony DVD had a number of extras, including deleted scenes, a couple of featurettes and a commentary by director Stefan Ruzowitzky. So fans will want to hang on to that disc.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.