An eye clamped open for a length of time that might make Malcolm McDowell shudder. A bloody robotic prostatectomy, A neurosurgeon turning a screw inside a conscious patient's skull as they trade stories about their childhood love of construction sets.

It all plays out on the big screen in '' De Humani Corporis Fabrica, '' a radical experimental documentary from Verena Paravel and Lucien-Castaing-Taylor shot at hospitals in northern Paris.

The title, Latin for '' of the structure '' or '' of the workshop of the human body'' comes from the seven-part text on human anatomy that Andreas Vasalius wrote in the 16th century. 

Going way inside without intruding. Two moviemakers capture surgery at the scalpel level at hospitals in France.

'' De Humani Corporis Fabrica '' took more than six years to make. The finished film has footage principally from three hospitals, but the director shot and conducted fieldwork at several others.

Some surgical imagery was downloaded straight from cameras that the doctors themselves used while operating. Much of the other material was shot with a small, lipstick-size camera that Paravel and Castaing-Taylor had specially designed.

The idea was that even outside the body, their camera needed to be as nonintrusive as the surgical camera themselves, and to involve optics [wide-angel lenses, a long depth of field]similar to those of endoscopic cameras.

Hydrophones - microphones for underwater use - and contact microphones helped capture sounds.

Their initial notion for the film was even more conceptualised.

'' It would be seven parts to it, shot with seven different contemporary imaging medical devices in seven different countries, displaying seven different cutting-edge surgical interventions to the body,'' Castaing-Taylor said. '' And that went out the window immediately.''

For a start, there were logistical difficulties.

The filmmakers began fieldwork at hospitals in the Boston area, but access to shoot there proved too difficult. Then Francois Cremieux, at the time the chief executive of northern Paris's university hospitals, who also runs a film series focused on care issues, let them in.

He said he set two conditions : The filmmakers had to be accepted by the medical teams and departmental heads, and they had to have legal approval from anyone who appeared onscreen.

Having seen Paravel and Castaing-Taylor's other work, Cremieux, now chief executive for Marseille's university hospitals, recognised that he had no idea what they would make.

'' Whatever the rational discussion could be at the beginning of the project, I knew that there would no way of knowing in advance what the end of the project would be, which for a C.E.O. of a hospital is strictly different from the relationship we usually have with filmmakers and documentarists and TV people,'' he said by Zoom.

But these are also public hospitals, and he felt that reputable anthropologists should have access to them.

'' I think we owe that to the public, and we owe that to citizens,'' he said. He also noted that forbidding access would have meant losing a chance to preserve what's happening in hospitals for future generations.

The World Students Society thanks author Ben Kenigsberg.


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