It’s hard to think of two bolder voices in the documentary film space than Verena Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor. The directors made their names with “Leviathan,” an immersive fishing documentary that gleefully defied genre conventions to show fishing in all of its gruesome beauty. Realistic approaches to flesh, both living and decaying, have defined their style for years, and the filmmakers’ latest work appears to be no exception.
In “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” Paravel and Castaing-Taylor turn their unique camera techniques to the human body, combining medical footage with a cinematic sensibility to portray the body in a way it has never been seen before.
More from IndieWire
“Thinking about how modern medicine has used the tools of cinema to develop its own powers of seeing, we wanted to try to do the opposite, to borrow the tools of medicine for cinema, to allow us to see the human body in a way almost none of us ever get to see, and to break open the usual ways we look at our bodies and the world,” Paravel said while describing the process of conceiving the film. “To give us a view of our interior selves that’s more corporeal, more incarnate. But one that also lets us glimpse our vulnerability: the fragility of life and the ever-present specter of death.”
The official synopsis for “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” reads: “Five centuries ago, anatomist André Vésale opened up the human body to science for the first time in history. Today, “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” opens the human body to the cinema. It reveals that human flesh is an extraordinary landscape that exists only through the gaze and attention of others. As places of care, suffering and hope, hospitals are laboratories that connect everybody in the world.”
The directors are no strangers to material involving human flesh. Their 2018 documentary “Caniba” is essentially a feature-length monologue from real-life cannibal Issei Sagawa, as he relays (in vivid detail) the story of how he killed and ate a woman in 1981. The film elicited some extremely strong reactions, with some praising its boldness and many, many others loathing it. Based on the teaser and early descriptions of “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” this film seems likely to be equally polarizing at Cannes.
“De Humani Corporis Fabrica” premieres tomorrow at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. You can watch the teaser, an IndieWire exclusive, below:
Best of IndieWire