Lajos (Marc Bischoff) is a young taxidermist: he tells the story of his grandfather Vendel (Csaba Czene), the awkward batman of a ruthless captain in the 2nd World War, who is just longing to be loved. He also tells the story of his father, Kálmán (Gábor Mate), his mystical birth and his career as a professional speed eating athlete during the socialist era. He just wanted to be famous, to win the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but the socialist countries didn't take part in the games. And finally Lajos talks about himself, the 'sculptor of organic material', who is being loved, who is famous, but who is just craving for eternity. He wants to create the most perfect work of art of all time: to stuff his own body.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Unlike any other film at Cannes in 2006 - or indeed any other year - Taxidermia achieved early notoriety, built on its bizarre, grotesque content. While the film certainly contains some of the most viscerally troubling images, it is the bravura leap of imagination and brilliant cinematic techniques that make it special. Think David Lynch with the focus on the total workings of the human body ... inside a family saga.
As the filmmaker says in the interview (raw footage from Cannes) included on the DVD, he wanted to make a film using the taboo subject of the workings of the human body, something very much a part of everyone's life. He wanted to include elements usually only seen in porn or horror films, he says, not to simply use them to evoke lust or fear, but emerging as an organic part of the film's content. Further, he wanted to work without restrictions.
With its title firmly in mind, the film gorges itself on the human body and all its functions, until the final act of body-preservation completes the bizarre thematic cycle.
Although admittedly difficult to watch at times, Palfi's film - following his almost wordless European Film Awards Discovery of the Year 2002, Hukkle - is impossible to categorise as gothic or horror or anything else. Genetic malfunction and a surreal retrospection to the communist social ambiance are combined in a story of three generations whose aberrations are the subject of the grotesque scenes played out. Grandfather's time was the war, father's was the communist era and the son's is now.
It all begins with an outcast whose hare lip is a mild enough outward signal of a deeper malfunction, which incidentally includes his ability to 'drink' the flames of candles. This enables his penis to become a sort of mini-flame thrower .... His sexual attentions to a giant sow of a woman beget a baby boy who seems normal enough until we see his piggy little tail. This boy grows up to be a contender for the world title as the biggest gainer - a sport of public eating (gorging, actually) that is disgusting to watch, especially after the event when the eathletes (athletes at eating) vomit up their intake. (In case you didn't know, there are about 40 competitive eating championships in America and Japan each year.)
But it's when the third generation of these men, a young taxidermist now tending to the elephantine father immobilised by fat, that the filmmaker turns up the image ante, with body-invasive self surgery. Far more dramatic than any open heart surgery you might have seen on tv, this is filmmaking that eats away at your mind and your intellect as you watch.
The overall impact of the film is far more complex than a review here can suggest, with its symbolism and references ranging from the stuffing the dead of taxidermia to the stuffing of the oversized living, to the communism-inspired social realism and heroism of a past age. From the ever-present symbolism of the pig, to the distended humanity that the cast represents ...
Review by Louise Keller:
Bizarre, disturbing, with gaggles of unwatchable elements, Taxidermina aims to shock even the most seasoned. It's hard to define the genre of this horror splatter drama that explores the results of gene malformation across three tragic generations. One thing is certain, there are no compromises from young extremist Hungarian director György Palfi.
There are close ups of copulating genitalia, stark bloody violence and gross-out ideas. The speed eating contests as Olympic events between blubbering fatso contestants who shovel beans from sloppy troughs are chunder-making. And that's before we see and hear the actual chunder.
It takes a while to work out how the characters fit together, but ultimately the plight of the gaunt taxidermist who supplies his immobile gigantically overweight father with daily rations of silver-wrapped chocolate bars (which he swallows whole, wrapper and all), becomes the central focus in the film's last third. Blocks of lard are thrown into the bowls of three caged fat tabby cats, and the taxidermist's plight leads us to the film's conclusion. Carcass stuffing, indeed.
I closed my eyes through some of the most gory moments, although the concepts (interesting as they may be intellectually) niggled at me both during and after the film. Adventurous and controversial, Taxidermia is unquestionably a film to talk about.... Unless you balk at it first.
Published August 28, 2008
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TAXIDERMIA: DVD (R)
CAST: Zoltán Koppany, Gergely Trócsányi, Erwin Leder, Adel Stanczel, Marc Bischoff , Csaba Czene, Piroska Molnár, Geza D. Hegedüs, Gábor Mate,
PRODUCER: Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu, Emilie Georges, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Alexandre Mallet-Guy
DIRECTOR: György Pálfi
SCRIPT: György Pálfi (short stories by Parti Nagy Lajos)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gergely Phárnok
EDITOR: Réka Lemhényi
MUSIC: Amon Tobin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adrienn Asztalos
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 2.0
SPECIAL FEATURES: György Pálfi interview for At The Movies ABC TV, by David Stratton; trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Siren Visual
DVD RELEASE: August 2007