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The Body


"THE BODY," a major feature film about the human body, sets out to look at bodies in the world today, and to celebrate the uniqueness of our existence. It traces the human life-cycle from conception to death and in doing so utilizes photographic techniques never previously seen by cinema audiences. Producer Tony Garnett: '1 think that we saw in this film an opportunity to present on celluloid some of the provisional conclusions we'd come to about the world. We wanted to pull those tentative conclusions together to be able to communicate them and to share with other people one's experience about the world and one's place in it. "The human body is a common denominator so it seemed reasonable to start with the body and to view the world from this common base."

To tackle the massive, complex subject, director Roy Battersby decided to assemble a group of people to be part of the film's process of rediscovering and celebrating the human body. With Tony Garnett he traveled all over England and Wales

to find an ordinary people, mainly working class, who would be part of the group concept. But they also required people whose bodies covered the extremes in the human physique-the fat, short and tall. It seemed a way of bringing together a group of people to show that although we're members of the human race, none of us look alike: the range in our physical geography is enormous.

Battersby explains: "One wanted to assemble a group which said, "All human life is here." Obviously the group doesn't represent everybody in the world. But at one level it can represent the age span and it can represent the three basic ethnic groups - caucasoid, negroid, and mongoloid. It can represent a range of experience. So that as a kind of representational tool it is very good."

Then there are no actors "It is a bit harsh maybe, but there is a tendency to divide people up into real people and actors - which I think is a bit false. "However, I do take the view that most actors and actresses - not all, but most - know absolutely nothing about the world. They live this kind of bizarre, narrow life where they're completely dissociated from the realities of life for most people. I certainly didn't want any stars because l didn't want people looking at the mythological creatures on the screen. "THE BODY" is a film about the sort of people in the audience."

The final group included a tall man (seven foot eight inches), a fat man (432 lbs.), a 79-year-old miner, a Chinese medical student, his sister, an art student from Wales, a docker, a blind girl, a Chelsea model, a pregnant lady, an 83-year-old woman from Notting Hill, a West Indian and a North Country cabaret artiste. Anybody that we see in the film is a person, a member of the group, who we've got to know something about. There are no specimens in the film; we never have guinea-pigs. If we see some skin or a toe or a leg, it belongs to someone in the group.

Battersby had special qualifications for this film. At the B.B.C., Battersby worked in the Science and Features Department and his credits include many much-acclaimed programmes examining science and its social consequence. Although his relationship with Britain's scientific establishment is often antagonistic, Battersby is respected for the intellectual strength of his directing. Among the scientists who gave assistance to the making of the film were Nobel prize winners, eminent professors as well as general practitioners.

To obtain full screen, colour pictures inside the human body, the makers of "THE BODY" had to use a highly specialized medical photographic technique known as endoscopy. This is the technique of viewing internal cavities with the aid of tubular optical systems.

Its use was first practiced by doctors to observe pathology in human organs. To the optical apparatus, known as the endoscope, is added either a still camera or a movie camera -this is photoendoscopy.

The makers of "THE BODY" decided to use this modern technique to explore the intricate mechanisms inside the human body. The film they have shot inside the organs shows that the external functions of the human body are comparatively boring. One sequence follows the movement of food along the intestines. Every few seconds the long, twisting tube gives an involuntary squeeze as the subject's meal takes another digestive step. This is the first time that specialized medical photography has been brought to the feature film screen. The history of endoscopy dates back to the end of the 19th century, when very primitive camera equipment was used for viewing organs inside the body. It was not until 1941 that the first quality pictures of the lung and food tracts were taken.

Dr. Max Fourestier, who headed "THE BODY'S" endoscopic film team, was responsible for the major technical breakthroughs of the early 1950's. Working at his laboratory in the Optical Institute of Paris, Fourestier invented the multiple apparatus which now enables doctors to obtain moving film of high grade colour repro. duction. By 1955 French television was able to use his first sequence shot in the bronchial passages. The main problem that the endoscopic technique must resolve is the total darkness in the internal cavities of the body. The first prerequisite, therefore, is a good system of lighting. Experiments with very powerful lighting have caused burns to the patient. It was necessary that the lighting be conducted from outside the body. After years of trials, Fourestier and his colleagues achieved the best results by using the refraction of light by prisms of quartz. They found the quartz was a much better conductor than, for example, mirrors.

For "THE BODY" the French team contributed a variety of pic. tures taken inside the body at their Paris clinic.

Bronchoscopy: the study of the lungs is one of the easiest and least painful exercises. The patient is given a local anesthetic before the endoscope is slipped down the windpipe. Once the endoscope is in position in the lungs, the camera is attached to the other end of the equipment and filming can commence.

Laryngoscopy: filming of the larynx is easily carried out by using a bronchoscope or with a tiny mirror placed at the base of the tongue. One of its more glamorous uses in Paris is the examination of the throats and vocal chords of leading opera singers and actors.

Esophagoscopy: viewing the walls of the esophagus is important in locating infection such as ulcers and cancers which might be forming in the food pipe. By recording the precise condition of the area a more accurate diagnosis can be obtained. While the film is being taken a breathing tube is introduced to allow normal breathing to continue.

Gastroscopy: in 1898 the stomach was first explored photographically. Two doctors in Germany introduced into the stomach a miniscule camera at the end of a rubber tube. The shutter was manipulated by fine lengths of string operated outside the patient's mouth. This painful procedure has now been replaced by more comfortable methods.

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The Body

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