Taxidermia (2006): Hungary – directed by György Pálfi
Not rated by the MPAA – contains lots of ridiculous grossness and graphic content, including lots of vomiting
It’s hard trying to figure out how to review Taxidermia. It’s not particularly similar to many other movies I’ve ever seen. I suppose it’s a black comedy; there’s no other way to describe it.
It is visually arresting, that’s for sure. It is also very graphic, in absurd and often hilarious ways. There’s a plot, I suppose, though the narrative really just follows common themes as it portrays three generations of Hungarians.
The first 25 minutes are pure absurdist genius. We meet a lowly soldier who is stationed on a farm with a lieutenant and his family. This poor guy has a harelip and some serious hangups. He has a strange assortment of fixations and fetishes and I suppose Freud’s head would explode trying to psycho-analyze him.
Actually, if Freud’s head had exploded in this movie I would not have been terribly surprised. It’s that kind of film. Anyway, at the end of this first segment the lieutenant’s wife gives birth to a baby who has a pig’s tail. This is not insignificant.
Fast forward to the baby, twenty or thirty years later. He has grown up and is now a sport eater. We first see him shoveling soup into his mouth alongside other eaters from Eastern Europe. A winner is declared and they all retire to the vomiting pool, where they chat and orally relieve themselves of the many kilos of soup they’ve just eaten. Then it’s on to round two, which involves eating a block of horse sausage mixed with gauze and other inedible products.
At the contest the son’s eyes fall on one of the women’s champions, and after some time they get married. They are soon pregnant (though they bribe the doctor into declaring it a cyst so she won’t be knocked down a division in the sport eaters league.) When the baby is born he is disappointingly small. Another fast forward brings us to the third and final segment of the film.
The small baby has grown up and is now a rail thin, disturbing-looking taxidermist. He still cares for his father, the former sport eating champion, and helps feeds three cats fifteen kilos of butter at a time so they can grow large and be sort sport eaters themselves. As a means of income he has specialized in taxidermy, stuffing anything anyone brings him. He soon grows weary of caring for his absurdly obese father and finally decides to set in motion a plan that will be sure to bring him immortality.
This movie is not for everyone. It would definitely have received an NC-17 rating in America, had the MPAA gotten their hands on it. Most of the more graphic moments aren’t even fit to be put in a review. As a result, it’s hard to recommend the film to most people. It isn’t just graphic for the sake of being controversial, though. Even the most disgusting moments are shown without being exploitative. They all serve the movie’s three main themes, which seem to be sexual hangups in the first act, gluttony and fame in the second, and immortality in the third.
The movie is, on the other hand, audacious and bold. I’m not sure how it got made, since there are hundreds of people and a great deal of money in it. But it is also very well made, with striking visuals that I haven’t seen in quite some time. The special effects are fantastic, and the CG is used effectively and to promote the narrative. It is a very original film, and one of the few gastronomicly horrifying films since The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover. In terms of atmosphere and content it reminded me a little of Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Franke Potente’s German horror film Anatomy. It is a better film than either of those, however, and far more memorable. I can’t recommend Taxidermia to many people, but those interested in boundary pushing black comedies filled with unforgettable moments of absurdity will undoubtedly enjoy it.