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Where EAST meets the Northwest

SKIN FLICK. The OMNIMAX theater is showing The Human Body, a film intended as a complement to the Body Worlds 3 exhibit, through October 7. The IMAX film shows the various systems of the human body in motion and at incredible levels of magnification. Pictured clockwise from top left are: Heather preparing for a shot of a tomato entering her digestive system; an X-ray of Luke biking down a street; and hair inside the ear magnified. (Photos courtesy of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)

From The Asian Reporter, V17, #31 (July 31, 2007), page 11 & 13.

Your body as a thrill ride

The Human Body

Directed by Peter Georgi

Produced by Peter Georgi and Richard Dale

Showing daily at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

By Mike Street

Special to The Asian Reporter

After leaving the Body Worlds 3 exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), where our veins, tendons, muscles, and organs are exposed like so much plumbing, you might wonder what all those miraculous sights look like in motion. Fortunately, you have only to walk about a hundred yards to get to the OMNIMAX theater, where The Human Body is now showing six times daily. Intended as a complement to the Body Worlds 3 exhibit, the IMAX film shows our bodies’ various systems in motion and at incredible levels of magnification.

Shot on virtually every film format in use today and incorporating the latest technological innovations in film and computer graphics, The Human Body creates striking wide-format images of everything from an egg being fertilized to the waves of heat given off by an exercising body. Kids and adults are sure to make exciting new discoveries about how the body works and gain a new appreciation for the skin, bones, organs, and processes that make our lives possible.

The Human Body represents a tremendously ambitious collaboration between scientists, technicians, and filmmakers, bringing never-before-seen images of body functions to life with cutting-edge computer graphics, microscopes, and specially designed endoscopes. Even the briefest of shots often incorporated weeks or months of work, as well as entirely new cinematic or imaging techniques. "To shoot the time-lapse sequence of the genetic fusion of egg and sperm required a whole new research project," explained writer-producer Richard Dale about a shot taking barely a minute of the forty-minute film.

The incredible results take full advantage of the immersive IMAX format, where the screen fills the entire field of vision and a 15,000-watt sound system creates the best surround-sound possible. From the first shot of the film, a close-range, helicopter-style shot of the human body, viewed as if the curves and indentations were actual elements of a landscape, you’ll realize you’re seeing a body in a whole new way.

As the movie progresses, you’ll watch footage of the tiny hairs inside the inner ear, food travelling through the body’s digestive system, computer-graphic representations of a beating heart, and an extended X-ray sequence of a bike ride to school. These labor-intensive techniques show very well in the highly detailed film format, and are the primary feature of the movie, re-creating the unreal world lurking inside the bodies of each and every one of us.

The narrative frame of the film both anchors the imagery and provides the film’s creators with several opportunities to show our bodies at different ages in different activities. The story follows pregnant Heather, her husband Buster, along with Luke and Zannah, the two children they are watching as they house-sit in England. Heather and Buster’s baby, whose birth is the climax of the film, is the clear focus, and both mother and fetus are shown as pregnancy affects them. Much time is dedicated to the embryo’s development, showing the body’s various features and systems under construction.

Buster and Zannah offer the least data, as his preparations for work allow some explanation of reflexes and hair growth, while she acts as a segue to the inner-ear footage. Luke is a very active teenager, and acts as a study of heat dissipation and circulation as he bikes and plays basketball. He also serves as a thematic bridge to a discussion of the changes occurring during adolescence, giving portions of the film the feel of a very tame sex-ed class.

Some children may giggle uncomfortably at portions like this, as happened in the showing I attended, and the youngest may be frightened by some of the roller-coaster or monster-movie appearance of the footage of their own bodies. After all, a sperm magnified millions of times is a vaguely frightening, whip-tailed swimmer, while the simmering contents of our stomachs resemble nothing so much as a witch’s brew. Still, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy here, and — while OMSI doesn’t restrict viewers by age — children eight and older will likely understand and appreciate most of what they see, so long as their parents are ready to explain any and all questions that might arise.

Even if it were not the perfect tie-in to the dramatic Body Worlds 3 exhibit, The Human Body would be well worth the time of anyone interested in seeing the many systems within our body up close. Paired as it is with the plastination exhibit, the IMAX extravaganza provides an excellent follow-up to the static bodies, and families or classrooms would do well to make both film and exhibit a day-long exploration into the fascinating worlds within us.

Body Worlds 3 and The Human Body are open through October 7. A review of the Body Worlds 3 exhibit ("Beauty that’s beyond skin deep," AR, June 19, 2007) can be read online at <www.asianreporter.com>.

OSMI is located at 1945 S.E. Water Avenue in Portland. To learn more, call (503) 797-4000 or visit <www.omsi.edu>.