I would hate to jinx a good thing, but have you noticed how smart people are hip again? While television seems to degrade everyone into an everyman (or in the case of the Discovery channels, slack-jawed knuckledraggers), cinema has been quietly going in the opposite direction. Particularly in independent films, people with a scientific mind are being given their due. Not just scientific minds but scientific subjects, meaning that speculative fiction is once again receiving an injection of intelligence rarely seen since the 1970s. It’s a small and quiet revolution, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY continues this trend with the story of a doctor trying to turn his greatest personal tragedy into a chance for a new beginning. Dr. Geoffrey Burton (Michael Eklund – THE CALL, THE DAY) is a geneticist whose newborn child was born with a debilitating and deadly illness. After his quick decline and death, Dr. Burton’s marriage dissolved and he has devoted his time trying to explore this new disease and if something positive can be made from it. To pursue this research, he has taken a new job at a genetic laboratory in Dresden.
He is reacquainted with Dr. Rebekka Fiedler (Karoline Herfurth – PASSION, WE ARE THE NIGHT), a talented doctor with whom Burton had an affair while she was his intern. She has come up with her own breakthrough, the Easter Gene. It is able to fight infection and even reconstitute severed parts in animals. He is advised by his superiors to help her out.
But there is another doctor at the facility, the creepy and egotistical Jarek Novak (Tomas Lemarquis). He has his own research and it seems as though he is stealing from Fiedler’s research to make it happen. Everyone seems to know something is going on and Burton’s paranoia grows.
When he starts showing signs of illness himself, he realizes that he might not just be a doctor in the development of a new pathogen. He may be the guinea pig.
The best parts in ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY deal with Burton’s continued emotional turmoil over the death of his son. He is racked with an odd sense of guilt that has only continued as he uses actual footage of his son’s painful disease in his lectures.
Less interesting is how Burton deals with the end of his marriage. He still dreams of his wife and tries to call her, even though she has gotten engaged to another man. His inability to let go of this part of his life supplies a dramatic crux of the film but is honestly just kind of drab.
And that is a problem that permeates through this film. The film is never quite as interesting as it tries to be. It shows several moments of promise, such as in the scenes between Eklund and Herfurth, scenes that deliver just the right sense of loneliness, awkwardness and small glimmer of hope to elevate them beyond mere flirtation.
But scenes such as this are the exception and not the rule. For the most part, the film plods forward and one senses that it would have played much better as an episode of a one-hour anthology series than the overlong feature it has become. The script is also confusing, not in that it is hard to figure out but that it is just a little too vague in several areas. We often figure things out shortly after the main characters, rather than putting everyone on the same page.
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is a dark, dramatic film whose best moments involve how Burton deals with both the regrets in his past and the ones that are staring him in the face. But there is another whole jumble that gums up the works. ★★ out of ★★★★
– Not rated, but the equivalent of a mild “R” for language, nudity and sexual situations.
– Running time: 1hr. 41mins.
IFC Midnight’s DVD contains the following extras:
- Q& A with director Eron Sheean
- Behind the scenes photo gallery