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April 15, 2014

Errors of the Human Body

by Franz Patrick


Errors of the Human Body (2012)
★ / ★★★★

After his newborn son dies from a rare genetic disease, Dr. Geoffrey Burton (Michael Eklund) moves to Germany to continue his research of finding a cure in a less politicized environment. His work involves detection of lethal genetic abnormalities which has implications when it comes to making a choice between abortion or carrying the embryo full term. Though Geoffrey is hired to work on his own, a former colleague, an intern named Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth), approaches him to collaborate with her. Her interest lies in limb regeneration and her axolotls can recover excised body parts in record time. However, another scientist, Jarek (Tómas Lemarquis), seems to be interested in her project.

It is a shame when a movie with such a strong premise like this comes along because it appears as though—at least initially—it can be as wild and original as anything out there. So it is most disappointing when it unfolds because the screenplay by Shane Danielsen and Eron Sheean seems stuck on catering a potential love interest that it forgets its own potential to shock, to awe, and to inspire.

The actors are game to be pushed but the material fails to capitalize on their talents. For instance, Eklund captures a father in a suspended state of grief, so desperate to get something right again—perhaps through his work or rekindling a relationship with his ex-wife—but does not quite know how to take the first steps that is healthy for himself and others.

A critical miscalculation is the screenplay not making Geoffrey smart enough. Although there is talk about him being an influential scientist, we do not actually see him being resourceful to get out of tricky situations or calculating enough to be able to extract information from someone who is equally smart or smarter than him. On the contrary, he makes unintelligent decisions. When one really thinks about it, the terrible things that happen to him in the latter half are due to his own actions.

The flashbacks involving the dying infant and his grieving and angry parents are repetitive. We get it—the baby has a genetic anomaly and there is nothing anyone can do to save him. One or two flashbacks is more than enough. By the sixth or seventh, it becomes noticeable how they disrupt the story’s momentum. They show us nothing new. Once we see Geoffrey looking sad as he observes his child breathing through a respirator, there is no need to linger or revisit once the point is delivered.

I enjoyed the look of the picture. Whether the scene takes place in the research facility, the guest house, or outside we seem to be watching the events unfold through a filter with a tinge of dark blue. It makes the environment and the human connections feel cold and impersonal—appropriate because the American is in a new place and in the process of getting used to his new home.

For a film with a title like “Errors of the Human Body,” directed by Eron Sheean, it has very little to do with science. The romance, fling, or whatever is taking place takes precedence but this angle is explored in so many other, better movies. If only the screenplay had been rewritten and taken the route of Vincenzo Natali’s “Splice” or David Cronenberg’s “The Fly.”

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