Director/Screenplay – Stefan Ruzowitzky, Producers – Jakob Claussen & Thomas Wöbke, Photography – Andreas Berger, Music – Marius Ruhland, Digital Effects – AFH Film & TV Services, Special Effects Supervisor – Gerd Feuchter & Eileen Kastner-Delago, Makeup Effects – Joachim Grüninger & Magicom, Production Design – Ulrika Anderson. Production Company – Claussen + Wöbke Filmproduktion/Deutsche Columbia Pictures.
Barnaby Metschurat (Joachim Hauser), Herbert Knaup (Professor Charles Müller-LaRousse), Heike Makatsch (Viktoria), Rosie Alvarez (Lee), Roman Knizka (Hagen), Wotan Wilke Möhring (Gregor), Hanno Koffler (Willi Hauser), Joachim Bissmeier (Dr Schinder), Franka Potente (Paula Henning), Frank Giering (Sven Lemke), Rosel Zech (Dr Bamberg), August Diehl (Benny Sachs), Felix Kramer (Kurt), Sebastian Nakajew (Wulf), Boris Pietsch (Fred Richter)
Joachim Hauser becomes an intern at a hospital in Berlin. Overworked but conscientious, he desires to become part of the elite group that work as research assistants to the brilliant Professor Charles Müller-LaRousse. When Joachim goes out on a limb to conduct an unauthorised operation to save the life of an uninsured immigrant child, his efforts are discovered by Müller-LaRousse. Rather than censure Joachim, Müller-LaRousse invites him to join the group because of his willingness to flaunt the conventional rules. The group reveal that they are all members of the Age Actabile Antihippocrate. They show Joachim the experiments they are conducting where they are replacing muscles with enhanced artificial substitutes and using themselves as test subjects. As they learn of competition from England, Müller-LaRousse pushes them to accelerate the experiments to a more radical level. At the same time, Joachim discovers that Müller-LaRousse has ordered the killing of people who tried to speak out against the dangers of the experiments.
The original Anatomie (2000) was a highly effective film that delved into some pleasingly nasty and uncomfortable places. It was made with a slickness that kept one on edge with the suspenseful adroitness of its twists and turns. The film was a substantial hit in Europe. Anatomie 2 is a sequel. Director/writer Stefan Ruzowitzky performs the same duties again, while original star Franka Potente is back in a small role, where her intern character has now become a detective investigating the activities of the AAA.
One sits down to watch Anatomie 2 with similar anticipation and the hope that it, like its predecessor, was going to push the gore and clinical obsessions into something creepily uncomfortable. The sequel certainly has a wonderful attention-grabbing opening scene where a respectable doctor is hosting a function at a conference only for his mentally ill brother to stumble in and start slicing himself apart with a scalpel in the middle of the reception floor. The main plot starts out in similar directions to the first film, with Barnaby Metschurat playing a variant on Franka Potente’s intern and uncovering the activities of the AAA. There is a rather outrageous scene where Heike Makatsch, in a wonderfully predatory performance, throws Barnaby down on an inspection table in a scene that manages to combine both seduction and medical examination.
Despite the promise of these scenes, Anatomie 2 pans out as a heavy disappointment. The biggest letdown of the entire film is that after the abovementioned opening scene, the entire film drops into routine thriller mode. There is nothing throughout the rest of the film that has any of the creepy gore or way-out dissection scenes that the original did. There is the odd surgery scene and one amusing scene where the Filipino nurses operate to remove Metschurat’s implants and a steel spring jumps out into their faces but these scenes have had the edge taken off any shock value they might have held by the fact that surgery is now shown in gut-squirming detail with almost routine regard on primetime reality tv makeover shows. Certainly, there is nothing in the film that has any of the original Anatomie‘s taboo-defying impact.
Nor does the thriller plot hold anything of the first film’s wild twists and paranoid intensity. Instead of the original’s illegal autopsies, this time Stefan Ruzowitzky comes up with a plot involving illicit bodily enhancement. While this does give the film a certain topicality, and some of the issues packed around the side of the film like the problems of uninsured immigrants and the insurance industry’s increasing domination over the medical profession give the film an interesting political edge, the body enhancement plot takes the original from a creepy gore film into the arena of schlocky ‘sci-fi’.
The nastiness of the scenes in the original with victims waking up on an autopsy table to find themselves partly dissected, or the killer taunting a victim who has been injected with a blood-coagulating drug as she tries to escape, have been replaced with absurd scenes with people using laptops to control others muscular implants and zombie-walk them towards the edge of a rooftop. Even a scene where one unstable experimenter is attacked by the thugs tamely fades out just as the victim is pinned against the wall. It is a case of a genuinely edgy taboo-defying film having been watered down to the level of an average and not even particularly suspenseful thriller.
Austrian-born director Stefan Ruzowitzky had previously had some success with the arthouse-acclaimed The One-Seventh Farmers/The Inheritors (1998) and the English language Wartime thriller All the Queen’s Men (2001) and the concentration camp drama The Counterfeiters (2007), which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Ruzowitzky returned to genre material with the children’s fantasy film Lilly the Witch: The Dragon and the Magic Book (2009) and the English-language horror film Patient Zero (2018).