had been filmed in English in Hollywood, it would have been just another an-evil-medical-conspiracy-is-killing-med-students-to-get-bodies-for-its-experiments slasher flick. Part of me even feels as though the movie wants
to be just another gross-out Hollywood slasher flick -- much of the film is formulaic to the point of parody, especially its preoccupation with getting its two female leads into their underwear.
However, the fact that this is a German movie adds a layer of thematic weight to the proceedings that simply wouldn't be possible in an American remake. Almost despite itself, Anatomie
speaks in a fairly sophisticated way to that archetypal German psychological concern, the discovery of secret, irreconcilable evil in one’s past.
Although it makes a few references to the Nazis early one, the movie doesn’t actually mention the name Josef Mengele until the third act. By this time the connection to Mengele is made it has occurred to every historically literate member of the movie’s audience and the only question that remained was whether or not the movie was going to make the connection explicit. Before we have time to say, “Hey, they finally mentioned Mengele,” however, the movie makes the Nazi connection personal; it turns out that the main character’s beloved grandfather was himself a member of the evil Anti-Hippocratic Society, was also presumably a Nazi, and was in fact Mengele’s superior
in the anti-Hippocratic Society at the time of his crimes.
In a single moment Anatomie
transcends its schlock origins and becomes a revealing cultural statement about the impossibility of coming to terms with the nation's Nazi past, particularly when so many kindly old grandfathers were, in their youth, active Nazi party members, or sympathizers, and or didn’t-want-to-rock-the-boaters.
And here, as in real life, the possibility of reconciliation is denied -- Paula’s grandfather dies while she is returning to Munich to confront him, putting his Nazi past forever beyond her reach. She can never understand his motivations or hear his justifications, much less extract a renunciation.
An American version of the exact same script couldn't have the same bite.