BMZ Review: The Human Body
By Ross Anthony
An interesting blend of the artistic and the scientific, "The Human Body" exposes our magnificent physical beings with a spirit of wonder. Just as the film "Blue Planet" presents our Earth with reverence and beauty -- our gorgeous and fragile home - "The Human Body" reminds us of the beautiful miracle system that hosts our breaths, hearts and minds.
A mysterious hole in the darkness appears, and we wind down along a crosshatched terrain - it's a close shot of the human belly button. A fantastic way to open the picture, I'd have loved the camera to slowly draw into the hole as if by gravity. Later in the film, we find ourselves in the stomach watching tomato chunks splash into the acid, so why not enter through the belly button?
Instead, the film organizes itself loosely around a day in life of an American family in England. Utilizing the style of the old multi-slide-image show, we can view multiple rooms in the family's home at once - like a dollhouse. We follow the son to school, observing his body/motion via heat scan as heat escapes his body. Then with x-ray vision we watch his bones (and those of the dog running alongside) orchestrating movement of the flesh.
Soon enough the focus returns to mom, who can't keep a rich smile back while talking about her pregnancy, "I'm never quite alone anymore." Of course, we join her in the hospital for low-res, yet simply remarkable images of the fetus in her womb. A timeline caption would have been nice here. Later, we're bedside along with the husband as she gives birth. If you're a bit weak of stomach, don't worry, the actual presentation of the newborn from the vagina isn't shown.
Probably the most wonderful sequence of the production sinks underwater. Babies bob in slow motion, eyes wide open, and paddle toward mentoring mothers (or teachers) as they hold their breaths for the first time. Sweet and full of heart, I could have watched this scene for at least twice its duration. Along the same lines, full grown adults manipulate their bodies in flight during platform diving shots in slow-mo - also filmed with great care and appreciation for the human form in motion. (Loved the sidewise shot of divers breaking the surface.)
Yet another remarkable sequence captures the woman (with child) walking across a black background, her belly expanding with the growing fetus. Via the miracle of motion-controlled photography (and life), in just 20 steps or so, we watch her body go through months of maternity.
Moving into the teenager's world, we hear adolescents talk openly about hormonal changes, puberty, guys, girls. One of the most dreaded irritants of that rite of passage pops nauseatingly across the huge large format screen - the zit! Prepare to wince.
Much of the picture takes place (on location) inside the body. Some organs bask in screen-time, still others are left out of the script all together. Those emphasized: ears, throat, stomach, intestines, lungs, heart, veins, sperm, eggs. The most stunning visuals are presented via magical microscopic photography. (The filmmakers were forced to create new technology, or improve existing ones for some of these shots.) However, simulations successfully communicate other organ processes. Unfortunately, these images aren't clearly identified as actual or simulations -- I was left assuming most aren't actual.
Though plenty of room for improvement exists, "The Human Body" hosts wonderfully appreciative glimpses of ourselves. I look forward to other "volumes" (or versions) of this picture which further embrace the aesthetics of our bodies through actual images both inside and outside of these marvelous gifts of life.
Copyright (C) 2001.
Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com
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