Movie Review Special - Two Films To Spark The Psyche
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY
Always a treat is actor Michael Eklund and for Eklund fans, the past year has been an ongoing Christmas present. Starting out 2012 with “The Divide”, written by Eron Sheean who now brings us ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY, we also saw Eklund in a second apocalyptic thriller, “The Day” in which he co-starred with Ashley Bell. Reteaming with Bell for 2013's “Marine 3", he can also currently be seen in “The Call” with Halle Berry. And now we have ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY. Unlike anything we have seen from Eklund in the past - and something that more than redeems Eron Sheean for “The Divide”, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is a thought-provoking, slow burn thriller that speaks to the moral conscience within each of us when it comes to science versus ethics and playing God.
Geoffrey Burton is an acclaimed research scientist. At an emotional crossroads, he has suffered the greatest loss of all - the death of his newborn infant son. Making the death even more difficult is that his son died of Burton’s Syndrome. Here he is, a geneticist, and he can’t even save his son. Spiraling downward, his wife leaves, his marriage disintegrates and he cuts himself off from the world, devoting his time to researching Burton’s Syndrome. Trying to put his life back together, Geoff accepts an offer from a prestigious laboratory in Dresden, Germany that will allow him to continue his own research while working on another interesting project, one helmed by his one-time student and former lover, Rebekka.
While the Institute wants Geoff’s help in furthering the development of the regenerative “Easter Gene”, Rebekka wants to rekindle their past affair. What no one tells him is that there’s a rivalry over developing the Easter Gene. Seems that it may not be all Rebekka’s work. She had another “liaison” with a former researcher, Jarek, who may be doing his own testing and research on the gene. Is Geoff there to help Rebekka? Jarek? Or merely the Institute who stands to make a fortune if they can perfect the gene and its transmission before anyone else? And just what are acceptable protocols to perfecting the process?
Written and directed by Eron Sheean, who is helming his first feature here, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is high concept and intelligent sci-fi medical thriller that is as engrossing as it is compelling and provocative. Described by Michael Eklund as a “little mad man of a writer”, Sheean employs a slow-build through story, character and at times minimal dialogue, raising topical and timely discussion on morality, playing God and the battle between science and ethics. While there is some minor action, adding to the mix is plenty of intrigue with facets of disease, infection, mutation and, of course, espionage.
Pushing ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY beyond a typical medical thriller such as the Gene Hackman/Hugh Grant “Extreme Measures”, are the performances, and none more than Michael Eklund. As Geoffrey Burton, Eklund brings an arsenal of emotion to the table. “Geoff is more introverted, there’s more going on inside of him. All I knew is that if I felt it in my real life then it would translate onto film. . . All I had to concentrate on was the character that I was playing which was a character basically obsessed with details of the disease that killed his child. And then how he lost touch with his humanity which destroyed his marriage and in the long run, his sanity, throughout the film. I just had to attack the internal struggle that the character was going through.”
Capturing the cold, haunting sense of Dresden, fueling the authenticity and chilling atmosphere is not only Anna Howard’s cinematography with a desaturated icy white on white bluish tone, but the research facility itself. According to Eklund, “We shot 80% of the film in the Max Planck Institute. They had quarantined areas that we weren’t allowed to go in and they made sure that we knew which areas those were. The best think about the Institute is that they were so warming towards us, they opened up their doors to us and just let us come in and make out movie. It was so nice of them to do that. To be in the real space, the real environment that the movie takes place in helped me a lot. The background actors in the film are the scientists going about their daily routines. They were the extras. If you see a scientist in the background walking around, that’s them working. We were shooting our movie around them while they were handling deadly viruses and whatever else they were working on. It made it very easy for me to feel like I was in the true life environment that Geoff Burton was in.”
As the antagonist, Icelandic actor Tomas Lemarquis is brilliant as Jarek. Brash, bold and cold, his on screen persona mimics his own odd, cold, crazed, bald-headed look. Able to unleash rage and frenetic unease at the drop of a hat, it comes as no surprise to learn that the real lab mice being used in the film actually did bite Lemarquis as they react to a handler’s energy. Rik Myall is a scene stealer. Portraying the Institute director, Samuel Mead, he serves as the narrative connective tissue between the audience and science. Karoline Herfurth dazzles with devious innocence, making Rebekka a perfect emotional foil for Eklund’s Geoff Burton.
As intense and emotionally draining for us as an audience as it is for Michael Eklund’s Geoffrey Burton, there is not a moment that Eron Sheean isn’t making us think, contemplate and question life and ourselves with ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY.
Psychosexual, erotically charged, unsavory, seedy yet visually beautiful and intriguingly conceptual, all describe writer/director Antonio Campos’ SIMON KILLER. With trace elements of noted French crime novelist George Simenon and shades of Patricia Highsmith’s deceptive pathological liar Tom Ripley, Campos, together with co-writer and lead actor, Brady Corbet, delve into the world of Simon, a man who stands on the ledge of truth and reality; but whose reality? SIMON KILLER is designed with a fascinating story structure that spins its web by declining into the bowels of darkness within Simon's mind.
We meet Simon in Paris. Apparently taking a break after graduate school, not to mention getting unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend of five years, Simon wants “time” to clear his head, figure out his life before assuming adult responsibilities like work, paying student loans, applying all that learned knowledge about the connection between peripheral vision and the brain to something useful. But there’s something about Simon himself that doesn’t seem to mesh with the intellectualism and education he purports to have. Wandering the streets of Paris at night, he follows pretty girls and tries to impress them with bad French, only to go home alone and engage in self-gratifying online porn; that is until he is lured into a fancy brothel and meets Victoria. Herself needing money and Simon needing companionship - and as we quickly learn - rather violent sex, their relationship moves beyond the brothel and into “real life”. But then tables turn that the audience sees but of which Victoria, whose real name is Noura, remains in the dark.
Campos and Corbet are masterful at manipulation. Capitalizing on moral ambivalence, violence and manipulation of the mind through imagery, they collaboratively create a world that forces one to read between the lines, allowing each person to see what they want to see.
The character construction of Simon is compelling. He is at first charming, perhaps a bit wounded and lost, but he sounds intelligent. We have no reason to doubt him but by the time the story arrives at a Skype call with mom, we know something is amiss with Simon as he goes into the clenching, rocking and hmmmmming hold-my-breath-till-my-face-turns-red sound....and he does it away from the camera on the laptop so Mom can't see him. Corbet shines in this moment walking the delicate line of sanity. And then the false persona really starts to fall away and the light bulb goes off .
Narrative fuels the action by way of Simon’s voice-over emails to his ex, Michelle, which is then complimented by the inter-personal connection with Mati Diop’s Victoria/Noura. Once these characters connect, Simon’s darkness shines through in spades and not only through his roughness and crude impersonal nature of sex itself, but with his stories and rantings. Even more telling are some self-inflicted “injuries” which lead to more intense lies and blackmail. As the film progresses and Simon gets hungry, greedy and even lustful for money, sex, control, we are privy to a calculated ascension into hell. The line between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, disintegrates and becomes indistinguishable.
Visually, SIMON KILLER is mesmerizing. Joe Anderson’s cinematography stuns, metaphorically capturing Simon’s mental decline through use of filters, blurring, skewed angles and vivid use of color, particularly red - pulsing, pounding, blood Anderson really pulls in the best of his depth of experience to elevate and accentuate the tonal bandwidth of the film as a whole, both integrating and playing against the grain of the bubbling psychosis of Simon. Slow pans bode well for allowing the mind’s eye to absorb what’s unfolding, letting the audience “read between the lines” searching for the truth amidst Simon’s manipulations and machinations and/or seeing what they want to see and believe. Skewed framing of doorways, the lines of cobblestoned streets glistening under pools of water and red neon lights lead the mind to question and ponder, “What’s hiding?” Masterful manipulation of the mind through images.
The film rises and falls, however, on Brady Corbet's performance. Wickedly good. Infantile, innocent and maniacal all at the same time. A master at emotional obfuscation. However, he gets annoying with the character’s outbursts. Hand in hand with Corbet is Mati Diop who gives Victoria/Noura a vulnerability to an otherwise hard pragmatic edge.
Nice design touch is Simon always wearing a little gold fox stick pin. Fox in the hen house, sly as a fox. Yep. A perfectly telling subtle addition.
Original music and techno-rock soundtrack by Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is pulsatingly seductive, serving as a complement more to the visuals than to the individual characters or story.
SIMON KILLER is a psychiatrist's playground - moral ambivalence, violence, pathological liar, violent sex, and at the same time, seeming like a lost little boy pulling every stunt in the book to get attention. Simon is manipulative evil.
http://www.moviesharkdeblore.comFor my exclusive interviews with Michael Eklund, Antonio Campos and Brady Corbet and to learn more about these films and each of them, go to www.moviesharkdeblore.com .