My adoration of the David Cronenberg’s oeuvre compels me to watch just about any film that’s compared to his work. Hence, I jumped at the opportunity to watch Eron Sheean’s Errors of the Human Body (2012), which is described in the DVD synopsis as “a slick, tense sci-fi thriller in the vein of early Cronenberg.” The DVD of Errors streets today from IFC Midnight and MPI Media Group, and the timing of its release seemed downright serendipitous, given the combination of this comparison to Cronenberg and last week’s Blu-ray release of Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral. Unfortunately, I found Errors to be something of a disappointment. I know, not everyone can be a Cronenberg. But I surely wasn’t holding the film to those standards. In and of itself, Errors is confused as to what story it’s trying to tell, and in that, it’s difficult to engage with emotionally.
The fundamental problem with Errors is that the narrative established in the first half hour or so has very little to do with Geoff (Michael Eklund), a geneticist and our central character. The film begins as Geoff moves to Dresden, Germany in order to aid his former intern Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth) in her groundbreaking new research. The first hour of the movie centers on Geoff’s attempt to expose fellow scientist Jarek (Tómas Lemarquis) for his efforts to steal Rebekka’s research and claim the discovery as his own. The thing is, because the research isn’t Geoff’s, he ultimately has little decision-making ability when it comes to the central narrative, especially when nobody else seems to care. Even Rebekka tells him to drop it. We only find out later, with a half hour left in the picture, that this conflict actually does have something to do with him personally, but by then we’ve already spent more than an hour watching him moping and smoking and having the occasional flashback. For the bulk of the running time we’re basically watching him watch another movie, not wholly unlike Raymond Burr in the American reworking of the original Godzilla.
The aforementioned flashbacks are where the movie really comes to life. Prior to his relocation to Dresden, Geoff’s son was born with a rare genetic defect that killed him within five days of birth. Learning this as we do early on in the film adds significant tragedy to his Dresden relocation. We understand immediately that he’s attempting to cope with his loss by running away from it and analyzing it scientifically rather than confront his emotions (think Willem Dafoe in Antichrist). However, I couldn’t help thinking as I trudged through the first hour and ten minutes of the film that I would so much rather be watching that story, the one where he as a scientist is faced with his own inability to save his son and potentially viewing it as some sort of cosmic punishment for his marital infidelities. You know, the story of which he is actually the primary causal agent– the story in which is actually a functioning protagonist.
To their credit, the screenwriters do attempt to rectify the distancing of Geoff from the narrative, but they do so primarily through surprise twists that ask us to reconsider previous events in light of this new information. Yet even as these twists passably assert Geoff’s legitimacy as a protagonist, they also serve as reminders that he’s been the central character of a far more interesting and engaging story, especially when the conclusion of Errors positions the natural conclusion of this (back)story as a surprise revelation. It just feels awkward and more than a little forced.
To shift this discussion toward more positive aspects of the film, however, I must say I was very excited to see Rik Mayall in a supporting role here, and a serious one at that, which he totally sells. His appearance onscreen was a most peasant surprise. Additionally, the film has a very sleek and stylized aesthetic that at least kept me engaged with the picture visually, even if I can’t say as much for the film’s emotional appeals. Cinematographer Anna Howard’s photography here really deserved to be seen in HD. Unfortunately, the film is only available on DVD. Sure, it looks great for a DVD, as great as a DVD can look honestly, but it’s still only standard definition.
Special features on the DVD release of Errors include a Q&A with co-writer/director Sheean, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and the film’s trailer.