First published by Little White Lies
Transferring to the field of genetics after a unique mutation led to his newborn son’s decline and death, Dr Geoff Burton (Michael Eklund) has seen his marriage break up and his research into Burton’s Syndrome (named after his son’s condition) run dry. So when Geoff arrives in Dresden to take up a new research post alongside his former intern Dr Rebekka Fiedler (Karoline Herfurth), he is a broken man looking for a second chance. There Rebekka has discovered the so-called ‘Easter gene’, capable of rapidly accelerating cellular regeneration in axolotls, and hopes that Geoff can help her turn it into a revolutionary cure for human cancers. Awkwardly attempting to resurrect his past relationship with Rebekka, Geoff chances upon a rival research programme being run covertly down in the ‘mouse house’ by megalomaniac colleague Jarek Novak (Tómas Lemarquis), and inadvertently becomes the guinea pig in an experiment which will make future hope collide with past sorrow.
The directorial debut of Eron Sheean (who scripted Xavier Gens’ apocalyptic The Divide), Errors of the Human Body crossbreeds the speculative trajectory of genetic research with the eternal complexities of interpersonal relations to create a coolly sombre tragedy with a hint of Cronenberg (body horror and ‘new flesh’ in a clinical setting). Shot in part at Dresden’s Planck Institute, the film perfectly matches its wintry locations to Geoff’s sense of alienation and isolation, contrasting these to a series of much more warmly lit flashbacks, before hybridising past and present in a horrifying dream sequence. Yet for the most part the film’s greatest strength is its understatement, as grand ‘theological’ themes of transformation and miraculous transcendence are cultivated within the secular petri dish of science, engendering a very human story of loss and harrowingly belated redemption. This chilling drama of flaws as much psychological and spiritual as corporeal was one of the Discovery Screen’s genuine highlights.
© Anton Bitel