Monday, June 14, 2010

Taxidermia (2006)


Title: Taxidermia (2006)

Director: Gyorgy Palfi

Review:

I recently did a Top Five Bizarro Movies Countdown in conjunction with fellow movie reviewer Shaun Anderson of The Celluloid Highway. I’m actually very happy with that countdown because we managed to come up with some truly bizarre movies! The strangest of the strange, if you are at all interested in seeing strange bizarro cinema, by all means check it out. During that countdown, I managed to get some savvy movie suggestion from my readers, one of the suggestions was the movie I will be reviewing today, the Hungarian/French production Taxidermia. I was excited to see this film because I was promised that I would be seeing some truly bizarre stuff. I pride myself in the fact that I have seen some of the strangest movies ever made, so I thought to myself that Taxidermia couldn’t possibly be as messed up as some of the films I have already seen. Turns out I was wrong! Had I known about Taxidermia, I would have placed it somewhere amongst my top five strangest movies ever.


Taxidermia is a film that spans three generations of men. The first generation we get to meet is a servant, who goes by the name of Morosgovanyi . He does everything that they ask of him on this remote Hungarian military outpost. He chops wood, he warms up the bath water, he slaughters the animals, and after he does all his chores, he goes to sleep in a shed outside, with no way of getting warm in the middle of the cold winter. The only way he knows how to get warm is by putting a candle really close to his skin, practically burning his skin! He also sucks up the heat emanating from the candle light! He lives in an incredibly desperate situation! Due to the fact that he lives in such a dire situation, Morosgovanyi often escapes to his fantasy worlds, and we get to go with him on these trips which are sexual, bizarre and surreal in nature. On top of things, he is constantly thinking of screwing all the women in the household, but apparently never gets any action, which leads him to taking desperate and repulsive measures to satisfy his sexual needs.


Then the movie focuses on his son, a young boy who goes by the name of Kalman. As the years pass, Kalman ends up being a world class speed eater. What this means is, he participates in eating contests, to see which speed eater eats the most the fastest! I’ve always found competitive eating disgusting myself. I mean, basically you are in contests to see who is the biggest glutton. The idea is repulsive to me, but this kind of thing exists in the world, Google it, it aint pretty. I mean, would you eat 59 hot dogs in less than 10 minutes? That can’t be good for you. Anyhows, this part of the film I found really interesting because it’s kind of like a fantasy world where there are Olympics for super fat people who eat large amounts of food at ridiculous speeds! And it’s this whole event, with people urging their favorite speed eaters to eat faster and win! It’s a very repulsive scene, these guys just gorging down on this slop! The whole scene reminded me of Stand by Me (1986) which has a scene that takes place during this disgusting pie eating contest that ends up with everyone vomiting on each other! On Taxidermia, Kalman the speed eater falls in love with one of his admirers, a woman named Gizi. Soon they get married and have a kid. It is then when we are presented with yet another child. The third generation of men we meet in this film, he goes by the name of Lajoska.


Lajoska is the son of Kalman the speed eater. Years have passed and now Kalman the speedeater has turned into a monster of gigantic proportions. A man so obese he cannot even get up to go to the bathroom himself! He reminded me of Mr. Creosote from Monthy Python's The Meaning of Life (1983). So this incredibly obese person has his son Lajoska do everything for him while he sits all day watching t.v. Lajoska must run to the supermarket and buy food and supplies for his obese father and his gigantic cats. By the way, Kalma prides himself on his fat cats, which he continuously feeds bar after bar of pure butter. My take on it was that he was getting these cats fat so that he could eat them later on. Kind of reminded me of Thanksgiving day for some reason. But anyways, after a while, Lajoska cant take being a slave to his father anymore. What will he do to change things?


I’ve only given the general outline for each tale, so I won’t spoil things for you. But trust me, each tale gets more twisted than what I’ve explained above. This is one of those movies that wants to shock you, that wants you to be shaken somehow by what you see, and it succeeds very well on this. The film does not focus on the beautiful or the attractive, rather, it focuses on the grotesque, the outlandish, and the freakish. As is the case in many films of this ilk, the images and situations are entirely symbolic. I am not Hungarian, and I am not up to date on that countries history, but I’ve read that the film has many symbolisms dealing with Hungaria’s political history. The change from communism to capitalism. And you can certainly see the film in that way. You can also think of the film as a representation of various capital sins, like lust, glutonny, bestiality, kind of like an even more twisted version of Seven, but I dont think that would be an accurate comparison, because I dont think all the sins are represented on this film.

Norman Bates would be proud

But I chose to see it as a film about families, and the psychological baggage we inherit from them. We see  how each new family member inherits something from the last, and how sometimes the sons have to suffer for the sins of the fathers. Must you live exactly how your parents live? Or can you take the rains of your own life? When is enough enough when you don’t agree to living the way your parents did? When you just don’t agree with the way they are or how they think? Of course, this can be applied to politics as well. There are certain ways to rule a country, must we continue running a country the way our fore fathers see fit, or can new more effective ways of government be implemented? A way that would benefit the people and the whole population in general and not just the elite few?


The tale dealing with the obese father and his skinny son is representative of this. From what I've read about the film, the obese man is representative of Capitalism and how it makes some rich and powerful, by feeding on the less fortunate. The obese father representing the rich and powerful, getting fat with every meal they take in, while the poor (represented by his son) get overworked, depressed, skinnier, sicker. And angry. Anger in a country leads to despair and revolution, something that is represented in the last frames of this film, but I wont spoil it either. Just see the movie. Its one of the most bizarre movies I have ever seen, and that’s saying a lot in my book. It is interesting that this movie is so ugly, yet at times beautiful to look at. I guess the beautiful lighting and colors is a way to even out the bizarreness the film displays. Highly recommended for lovers of world cinema and for lovers of the strange and unusual.

Rating: 5 out of 5

TaxidermiaMonty Python's The Meaning of LifeStand By Me (Special Edition)

13 comments:

Drew said...

Nice review here! Taxidermia is definitely a haunting, bizarre experience, and one that's hard to shake. I love how you tie in the political themes running right underneath the grotesque imagery.

Incidentally, if you haven't seen Palfi's previous effort, Hukkle, I would highly recommend it. It's not in the same league as Taxiermia as far as the gross-out factor goes, it's more a quiet contemplation of image and ambiance and loose narrative, but it's a cinematic experience as unique as anything I've seen in the past few years.

Planet of Terror said...

Holy jesus this sounds crazy. And is that fire spewing forth from a penis?

The Film Connoisseur said...

@Drew: The political themes are there, but most people who are not Hungarian or European wont get it, they will simply see it as a metaphor for sins, a la Seven. I only got them because I read about the films interpretations, but I would have never guessed. Though, you can see a lot of social commentary on the film, you dont need to see it as a political metaphor. It depends on the viewer.

Thanks for the recommendation Drew!

@Planet of Terror: Yup, it is, thats what I mean by bizarre! The first story is extremely sexual in nature, because the guy is so isolated he imagines these women with him as he pleasures himself. It's very surreal. You could say the allegory there is that the guy is 'on fire' with desire.

With movies like this, some might dismiss it simply because its foreign or hungarian, but I tell you, they are missing out on a very well directed horror picture.

groovacious said...

I might watch this film, though, at the sound of it, it sounds like something I might not be able to stomach. Definitely an interesting watch for a movie night...

The Film Connoisseur said...

34Groovacious: It certainly is different! Just be ready for totale bizarreness, and you should be fine!

Carl (ILHM) said...

Dude way to pull out the big guns, I have never even heard of this one so I am well on my way to checking it out now, thanks for the review!

The Film Connoisseur said...

Trust me Carl, this is one of those movies that should be talked about more, its so well shot and directed, and shocking, definetly worth a watch! Let me know what you thought about it!

Shaun Anderson said...

Funny you mentioning this one, because I also came across it during my researches for our Top 5 bizarro countdown. I didnt know anything about it, but I have now promptly added it to my online rental list and look forward to another evening of true weirdness in the future.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Looking forward to your review of it Shaun! The fact that I had not seen it is the only reason it didnt go onto my top five, cause it would have certainly made it there had I seen it!

Bob Ignizio said...

Good review. I just watched this yesterday on the Netflix instant view, so anyone who has that service can easily see it there. Anyway, I really liked the movie even though I didn't entirely grasp it. This is an art film with a capitol "A", like something Peter Greenaway would do. I'm sure understanding the political symbolism adds to one's enjoyment, but I was content not knowing any of that and just watching the amazing visuals in awe.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Exactly Bob, you can enjoy it either way. When I watched i I didnt know about the political side of the film, and I enjoyed it inmmensely anyways.

Some of the visuals evoke films like The Fall or The Cell. Taxidermia has all the lush visuals of a Tarsem film, but with an even more bizarre side.

atti123 said...

anyone knows why does the son in the third story kills himself in such a way that he is preserved .. I get that he is a taxidermist but why do it to urself...

Thanks

Francisco Gonzalez said...

I think he killed himself that way because his life was so terrible, I guess turning himself into a statue or whatever he ultimately turned himself into was a way of saying he is an example for others to see...ultimately, it's a symbolic death for us the viewers to interpret. He is the opressed, the abused in society, it's as if he is saying "look at me!"

Thanks for commenting att123!

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