American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Gross Anatomy" contains scenes of laughter and scenes of romance, but the scenes that I identified with the most involved performance anxiety. This is a film that follows a group of students through their first year of medical school, and they seem to be taking an examination every 10 minutes. The university atmosphere is reproduced with relentless accuracy, right down to the most subtle intonations in the voices of the professors setting the exams and asking the questions.
And all of the dialogue has the ring of truth.
Watching the film, I began to ask myself what I was feeling. I was absorbed by the story, I cared about the characters and yet I felt a growing unease, which I finally identified: The movie was reawakening fears that I thought I had buried years ago, those fears that the final exam was being held tomorrow and I'd never studied for the course and I was going to fail miserably and humiliate myself and disappoint my family and flunk out of school and get drafted and die.
Because the movie gets that right, almost everything else in the plot seems to fall naturally into place. This is not a movie about medical school, or medicine, so much as it's a movie about being under relentless pressure. Early in their first semester, the students figure out that they have to master about 3,500 pages of material a week, and attend lectures and anatomy laboratory, and somehow find time to eat and sleep. We can taste their exhaustion as they get up at 5 in the morning and march like zombies through one unrelenting day after another. Their lives are a race between total exhaustion and fear of failure.