Anatomy for Beginners (2005)

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Released 15-Aug-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Animation
Featurette-Documentary:The Anatomists-Gunther von Hagens
Trailer-Live Flesh, Time Of The Wolf
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 197:28 (Case: 200)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Coleman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Dr. Gunther von Hagens
Professor John A. Lee
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Al Lethbridge

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The following programme was recorded at the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany, in front of an international audience of body donors and anatomy students. All bodies dissected were formally donated to the Institute and the donors consented to their remains being used for educational purposes... (The blurb at the beginning of each episode).

    In January of 2005 Channel 4 broadcast an innovative, but highly controversial program which brought the study of anatomy, complete with human body dissections, into people's living rooms. The program, Anatomy For Beginners, is a four part series that also screened recently in Australia on SBS. The program became essential viewing for many and developed quite a following; despite its late time slot. The series is nicely presented on DVD in a two disc set.

    Anatomy For Beginners is presented by pioneering anatomist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens and pathologist, Professor John A. Lee. Dr. von Hagens pioneered a procedure known as plastination, which preserves bodies and body parts for educational and display purposes. This works basically by substituting water and fat in the body tissue with special polymers that can preserve even the finest detail. This results in specimens that are immaculately preserved and presented, offering incredible opportunities for medical education. Many of these specimens are used in the program. Dr. von Hagens has also exhibited these specimens around the world in an exhibition titled Body Worlds, which displays genuine examples of human anatomy in a very public forum. Anatomy For Beginners is simply an extension of his desire to educate people about the wonders of what we all generally take for granted - the function of our bodies.

    Each of the four programs in the series focuses on a particular aspect of human anatomy -  movement, circulation, digestion and reproduction. Each episode involves the dissection of a body to demonstrate the function and theories of that particular subject. Dr. von Hagens performs the dissections, making relevant comments during the procedure. In each episode a live model is also used to assist in demonstrating an overview of the topic being discussed. Professor John A. Lee provides the general flow of information throughout all four episodes. He explains the functions and theories during the course of the dissections, switching between specimen, live model and plastinate exhibits.

    The forum for the dissections is similar to that of an autopsy, only with an audience. This small audience is made up of adults of various ages. Some are medical students and others are people who have decided to donate their bodies for medical research when they die. The group is seated around a central floor area, which is set up in such a manner to facilitate the dissections. The area also features a series of plastinate exhibits relating to the topic and plasma screens for audience viewing. A plasma screen is also used occasionally by Professor Lee to display points of interest in microscopic detail.

Disc One: Movement (49:39)

    As the title suggests, this episode deals with the mechanics behind bodily movement. With the specimen body suspended in a vertical position, Dr. Gunther von Hagens removes the skin entirely from the body to reveal the network of muscle and tendons. With careful dissection, he exposes these tendons and ligaments, demonstrating the workings of basic human movement. He also removes the spinal cord and brain, examining their roles in movement. As part of this process Dr. von Hagens also tracks the sciatic nerve through the body and explains its vital function.

Disc One: Circulation (49:21)

    Episode two concentrates on circulation and the organs that facilitate this essential function. Dr. von Hagens opens and folds back the rib cage, exposing the lungs and heart. In a couple of unique experiments, he demonstrates the inflation of the lungs and the function of arteries and the numerous smaller vessels in carrying blood throughout the body. The heart and lungs are later removed from the specimen and are examined in closer detail.

Disc Two: Digestion (49:36)

    The aim of this episode is to follow the journey of a piece of food from the mouth, through all the digestive processes until it passes from the body. Dr. von Hagens begins the dissection at the back of mouth and travels down through each digestive process, revealing the incredible passage that is taken by everything we eat. Professor Lee explains the progression of a swallowed piece of food and the function of the major organs that facilitate the breakdown of that food. Dr. von Hagens also closely examines key elements within the digestive system such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas. At the conclusion of the episode, Dr. von Hagens impressively lays out the entire seven metres of digestive tract from the oesophagus to the anus.

Disc Two: Reproduction (48:52)

    The final instalment in the series relates to human reproduction. Two dissections are performed during this episode. The first half of the program is dedicated to the male reproductive system and the second to the female. The reproductive systems of both specimens are completely removed, dissected and examined in detail by Dr. von Hagens and Professor Lee. There is no doubting this particular episode is the most difficult to watch and will have many squirming in their chairs. It is nevertheless an intriguing episode which completes a fascinating series.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for Anatomy For Beginners is very good.

    The series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. I would guess that this is the correct ratio.

    The series exhibits excellent levels of sharpness and clarity throughout all episodes, especially during close ups. Blacks were clean and deep, with no signs of low-level noise. Shadows were also exceptional.

    Colours were beautifully rendered on the disc, appearing perfectly natural and well balanced.

    There were no MPEG artefacts. Film-to video artefacts were not at all problematic and film artefacts were non-existent.

    There are no subtitles available on the DVD.

    Both DVDs are single sided, dual layer discs. The layer change occurs at the very end of the first episode on each disc, therefore the change is not noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is perfectly suited to the content.

    There is only one audio track available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality was superb and there were no problems with audio sync.

    The music for the series is provided by Al Lethbridge and is limited to the theme music only. This has an intriguing, almost mystical feel that suits the program very nicely.

    The surrounds were only active during the opening of each episode, when the theme music was played.

    The subwoofer was not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The presented documentary is relevant and interesting.


    The menus are silent, static and are 16x9 enhanced.

Disc Two Featurette: Documentary - The Anatomists   (49:08)

    This documentary examines the life of Dr. Guther von Hagens and his controversial anatomical exhibition of human specimens, titled Body Worlds. The exhibition has caused huge waves around the world with the moral dilemmas it has raised - is the exhibition artistic and educational or just exploitation? The program documents Dr. von Hagens' life from childhood (which began his life long obsession with human anatomy), through to his discovery of the plastination process and the establishment of his institute. There is little doubt the plastination process opens up a world of wonderful educational possibilities. Dr. von Hagens claims the Body Worlds exhibition is a culmination of these possibilities, bringing the education of human anatomy and art together. However, there are certainly plenty of valid objections to the exhibition and The Anatomists provides both sides of the argument, allowing the audience to make their own personal decisions.

Disc One: Madman Propaganda Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At the time of this review there is no R1 version of Anatomy For Beginners available.


    Anatomy For Beginners is certainly not a program for the faint-hearted. The confronting nature of the series is underscored by the fact that these dissections are of real people. However, if you can get past this barrier, you will discover a highly informative program that will make you think more about the body that most of us take for granted.

    The video and audio transfers are both excellent.

    The only extra on this edition is at least substantial, relevant and thought provoking.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, September 18, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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