ANATOMY promo art

(2000, Germany)

3 stars  

directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
starring: Franka Potente, Benno Fürmann, Anna Loos, Holger Speckhahn, Sebastian Blomberg, Traugott Buhre, liver Wnuk, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Andreas Guenther, Antonia Cäcilia Holfelder, Rüdiger Vogler, Barbara M. Ahren, Werner Dissel

choice dialogue:

If you’re nice to me you can have my corpse.”

- naughty or nice.

slash with panache?


[review by JA Kerswell]

  Paula (Franka Potente) (right) attends the prestigious Heidelberg University in ANATOMY, but starts to suspect something is amiss.

ANATOMY was the most financially successful of the post-SCREAM (1996) German slashers, leading to a 2003 sequel in its homeland. Although, arguably, it leans more into more of a conventional thriller than a slasher movie until its climactic scenes. A young anatomy student becomes suspicious that a shadowy medical secret society is operating without ethics at the university she just started attending. This leads to a cat-and-mouse game to avoid the scalpel as she tries to unravel the truth. Perhaps not ageing as well as some of its contemporaries, the film has enough startling moments and passages of suspense to mostly overlook its wildly uneven tone.

Paula (Franka Potente) is one of the most promising young medical students in the country after placing second in national trials. She is accepted for a summer course at the prestigious University of Heidelberg where her grandfather had once taught. She is accompanied by a fellow student, the sexually aggressive Gretchen (Anna Loos) who teases she will eat the male students for breakfast. On a train to Heidelberg, Paula responds to a medical emergency when a young man named Paul (Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey) has a cardiac arrest. She saves his life and they part ways after he tells her he is hoping to have experimental surgery on his heart in the town. However, both Paula and Gretchen are shocked to find Paul’s cadaver on the mortuary block during anatomy class mere days later.

Gretchen dismisses Paula’s concerns that something nefarious might be afoot, but Paula has David’s blood analysed and it shows that it had been partly plasticised - which would have rendered him immobile and eventually killed him. Curiously, the university has the largest collection of plasticised human specimens in the country …

  The plasticised cadavers in ANATOMY were inspired by Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ popular exhibition ‘Body Works’.

Paula also notes that David’s cadaver had AAA carved on his ankle. She discovers that these are initials of the Anti-Hippocratic Society - a secret group of medics that reject the Hippocratic oath and undertake unethical experiments with the excuse that they are for the greater good. She becomes suspicious of some of the male students and staff, including Gretchen’s boyfriend the hunky Hein (Benno Fürmann) and her would-be romantic interest Caspar (Sebastian Blomberg). The more she digs into the society, and how deep the conspiracy runs, the more that she and her friends find themselves in mortal danger.

Perhaps the main problem with ANATOMY is that its tone veers from one extreme to another. For much of its first half, the film is almost breezy and comedic. The students enjoy summertime banter with each other and Gretchen holds up a carrot and banana to discuss penis sizes - all to the feel-good summer sounds of Fatboy Slim and the like. One character (Holger Speckhahn) even greets the newly arrived students with: “I’m Phil by the way. Like Phil her up.” To be honest, the English dubbing doesn’t help and adds cheesier notes than perhaps the filmmakers probably intended. The film works better when its black humour is understated, such as the scenes where incapacitated - but very much conscious - victims are dissected alive whilst piped Easy Listening music plays in the background. Or when a severed head is hidden in an Aldi supermarket carrier bag (how’s that for product placement!). The broader humour is also at jarring odds with the talk of the horrific human experiments by Nazi monsters such as Josef Mengele. And the extraordinarily gruesome and fascinating plasticised cadavers that were inspired by Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ popular exhibition ‘Body Works’. The real exhibit was considered to be used in the film, but rejected by the film’s director who considered it too gholish to use actual human remains and so all of the exhibits were created by the special effects crew.

  The slasher action kicks in at the eleveth hour ANATOMY - too little, too late?

Franka Potente is probably best known to English-speaking audiences for the breakout hit RUN LOLA RUN (1998) and for her appearances in the THE BOURNE IDENTITY movies. She also appeared in the slasher adjacent CREEP (2004). She also returned for a small, but pivotal, role in the sequel ANATOMY 2 (2003); where her character has switched from medicine to policework - specifically hunting down Anti-Hippocratic Societies. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky also returned for the sequel, which largely jettisons the slasher angle almost entirely for a medical conspiracy/paranoia thriller.

ANATOMY was the highest-grossing German-language film of the year 2000. Although, perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t follow the SCREAM/US 90s teen horror template as closely as other contemporary German slasher films, such as SCHOOL’S OUT (1999), FLASHBACK (2000) and THE POOL (2001). This is despite its very SCREAMesque cast ensemble poster artwork. In fact, the slasher element only comes to the foreground in the last 20 minutes or so. However, despite its faults, ANATOMY is still an entertaining watch.


ANATOMY is available on DVD at and streaming on Amazon Prime.


BODYCOUNT  bodycount!   female: 1 / male: 6

1) Male dissected alive
      2) Male stabbed with a scalpel
      3) Male killed (method unseen)
      4) Female killed (method unseen)/font>
      5) Male slashed to death with a scalpel
      6) Male has his blood plasticised
      7) Male electrocuted and stabbed with a scalpel



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