Errors of the Human Body is an enjoyable thriller of science versus nature. Dr. Geoff Burton (Michael Eklund) is a geneticist who, after losing his infant son to a rare genetic abnormality, relocates to Germany to study a new-found discovery in cell regeneration. Documenting both the mental and physical breakdown of this brilliant scientist, the film draws the audience down a labyrinth of cracks within the human psyche. Where should science concede to morality?
Eron Sheean shines in his feature film directorial debut. He escorts the audience on an emotional assault of finding where the line is drawn, if any line exists at all. How far is too far when trying to better the human race? As co-writer on Errors of the Human Body, Eron constructs a conundrum of massive proportions. We find ourselves in the age-old debate of natural selection. Eron creates a world where the characters struggle over accolades, ego, and the process of discovery. Yet it isn’t until the end, past the point of no return, that they stop to realize the magnitude of the boundaries in play.
The film reminds me of a modern day Hitchcock thriller mixed with a few Shakespearean undertones. The grey and blue lighting matches the cold, metallic, and sterile environment of the lab. Isolation resonates within Geoff’s adaption to this new country struggling with the barriers of language and lack of the typical American hierarchy he’s used to. The grief of losing his son makes Geoff vulnerable to a jet lag induced insomnia. With a few guided missteps Geoff finds himself at the center of the debate wherein the scientist becomes the experiment. Eron brilliantly disguises the story within the science and never once plays down to the audience. He allows the audience to follow Geoff on this journey of paranoia, and we enjoy the slow burn of realization through subtle clues.
Without giving too much away, there is a moment when Geoff dissolves into the background lighting. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but to me it felt to be such a profound moment of story, character, and scene. It solidified the feelings of grief and insanity in just a sliver of those shadows replaced by light. Warm colors began to saturate the film replacing the cold and dreary tones we had become used to. It paralleled the same feelings evoked in the muted dialogue scenes involving Geoff’s dying son.
The international cast is amazing and each actor brought a different personality to life in these characters. Michael Eklund leads the cast as Geoff with his grief-stricken parent side drowning to his scientist side. The farther he tries to run from the past the more he is faced with it. As the film progresses we are bound to Geoff’s fate and feel the suffering alongside him. We are sad with him, angry with him, scared with him, and a little crazy with him. He is the mirror into our own souls. He is our moral compass, and we feel the chaos taking over.
Karoline Herfurth, who plays Geoff’s once intern now equal, Rebekka, is the film’s heart. She brings a beautiful sweet compassion to an otherwise firmly calculated world. The chemistry between Geoff and Rebekka is instant, and before it is even revealed we know that they have a complicated history. It is a rare find of two actors who can connect non-verbally to share their story through subtext and action. Michael and Karoline do this perfectly especially in the scene where they are outside with their bodies nearly breaking from the obvious cold winds and emotions.
Tómas Lemarquis plays the devil’s advocate with his character Jarek. We are never quite sure if we admire him or hate him. Jarek is on one hand a scientist who wishes to bring health to third world countries, yet on the other hand he is willing to do this by any means necessary. He will lie, cheat, and steal his way to the top. He gets so wrapped up in the idea that he forgets to think through the consequences. Tómas is so striking and handsome that we are fooled by Jarek’s friendly invitations, but Geoff always has his guard up with him. Jarek knows how to bend the rules to get what he wants. I think everyone except Geoff falls victim to his charm. We all know someone like that. You can see that they are trouble from a mile away, but you still fall into their trap. Geoff still ultimately pays the price of Jarek’s deceit, just not in the way that was intended.
The sets of Errors of the Human Body are characters in and of themselves. The lab is a maze much like what lab mice would be tested in. The apartment is devoid of any feeling and is more like an extension of Geoff. The club is chaos mixed with drunken passion and aggression. The window into the past is both voyeuristic and depressing. Even the snow covered lake feels like the hardened shell Geoff has encompassed his grief in. The abandoned building is broken and bleeding debris. Each has its own unique personality traits and purpose.
Errors of the Human Body is a human experiment of morality much like the old Hitchcock films. If Marion Crane had never stolen the money, then she would have never met Norman Bates, and there wouldn’t be a Psycho. If Geoff had not made the decisions he made in his search for healing, then maybe fate would have taken him to some tropical island paradise, free of mice and lab coats. I thoroughly enjoyed Errors of the Human Body. I allowed myself to go on the journey with the characters and the story has stayed with me. I wonder where science will take us over the next one hundred years. Wings? Time travel? I personally think it would be nice to have gills so that we can breathe under water. What would you want?
*Errors of the Human Body is now playing in select theaters and is also available on cable VOD, SundanceNOW, and other digital outlets (iTunes, Amazon Streaming, PS3 Playstation Unlimited, XBOX Zune, Google PLAY and YouTube). For more information and to see the latest exclusive clips check out IFCfilms and iTunes trailers. Follow the film on Twitter @errorsthemovie.