Directed by György Pálfi
A comic grotesquerie more grotesque than comic, Taxidermia gives monstrous cinematic expression to man’s basic appetites — for sex, for food and for excess. Set against the backdrop of modern Hungary from the communist era through the present, György Pálfi’s film chronicles three generations in the male line of a strikingly perverse family as they wade through a sewer’s worth of semen, dirty bathwater, intestines both ovine and human, embryos encased as key ornaments, self-mutilations and buckets and buckets of vomit.
In the film’s first section, an army lieutenant tells a horny, harelipped underling, “it’s not the world that makes the cunt go 'round, it’s the cunt that makes the world go 'round,” a lesson hardly lost on his charge. Spending his time jerking off and peeping on the lieutenant’s daughters, the younger man eventually shtups his superior’s fat wife, an act that leads to his untimely death. In the second, the deceased’s son grows up to be a champion speed eater, marrying a fellow competitive face-stuffer and giving birth to a son of his own. In the third part, that son grows up to be an ashen, bird-faced taxidermist, while the father — now grown obese to the point of immobility — sits in his chair and breeds monster cats. When the cats break free from their cage and maul him to death, the son stuffs his old man before turning his taxidermy equipment on his self.
In short, per the titular metaphor, all three characters look to get “stuffed” — transforming their bodies through sex, food and taxidermy, respectively. Pálfi draws plenty of parallels between the three. In an abrupt transition representative of the film’s sensibility, the filmmaker hard cuts from the young army boy sending a heroic load of ejaculate up to the stars to the graphic slaughter of farm animals — the comic desire for copulation giving way to the brutal process of food preparation. Later, a ridiculously overweight speed eater fucks a woman from behind while devouring a piece of meat. Finally, the taxidermist’s desire for extreme bodily transformation is revealed as the upshot of his own sexual frustration.
But while such moments evince a keen thematic understanding and, while others — such as a left-to-right tracking shot of eating contestants stuffing themselves, followed by a right-to-left tracking shot of the same contestants vomiting — show off Palfi’s spunky sense of invention, too much of the rest seems like little more than a catalogue of grotesqueries — the more grotesque the better. And with the director’s attempts at comic leavening – such as a satirical, art-world skewering ending - falling largely flat, Taxidermia’s grossness is matched only by its morbidity.
Opens August 14