TIFF Report: Taxidermia Review
A compelling, utterly unique, deeply bizarre film György Pálfi's Taxidermia - his sophomore film following the greatly acclaimed Hukkle - is like nothing you have never seen before. A triptych that moves through stages of sex, life and death the film is filled with genital nudity, bestiality, a flaming penis, a pig graphically butchered on screen, competitive eating, extreme obesity, self mutilation, gallons of vomit, and taxidermy. In the hands of virtually anyone else Taxidermia would essentially boil down to a parade of the grotesque but Pálfi, with his beautifully naturalistic shooting style and unerring gifts for finding natural rhythms and beauty in unlikely places, elevates the material into something disturbing, true, and yet elegaic and graceful. You may well be repulsed but you will likely also be enthralled.
Told in three distinct stages tracking three successive generations of a family the film begins in a remote military outpost, telling the story of a cruel lieutenant and the hare-lipped private he loves to torment. Despite this being the cold of winter the private is forced to live in a ramshackle, unheated shed and serve as the lieutenant's virtual slave. Neglected by all those around him the private has developed a powerful fantasy life, lusting after the handful of women present when not spouting flames from the tip of his penis.
Segment two follows the lieutenant's son, seen born with a curly pig's tail at the end of segment one, who is now a champion competitive eater in communist Hungary, his life revolving around training, competition, post competition vomitting, and the canning factory female champion he loves from afar. Tragedy strikes on the field of competition, he rebounds to get the girl, and training resumes but have the glory days of competitive eating passed? Will the IOC ever recognize these tremendous athletes?
Segment three follows our eater's son, the lieutenant's grandson, a professional taxidermist who spends his days mounting animals, manipulating bodies, and whose stark thinness stands in dramatic contrast to his massively overweight father, by now an immobile blob, who he cares for bringing regular deliveries of candy bars, which father eats wrappers and all, and cases of butter - thirty kilos at a time - which are fed to the monstrously large cats dear old dad is training up as eaters. In his effort to control in himself the wild excesses he sees in his father the young taxidermist soon takes the ultimate steps to preserve himself as is.
Graphic, bizarre, absurdly funny, and yet graced with a strangely human heart Taxidermia will challenge, infuriate, entertain, and send you away question the largest questions of life. It is a vicious satire of Hungary's recent history that also finds universal themes and couches them in a language so strange, so visually arresting that it simply cannot be ignored. Do not bring any members of PETA to this film unless you wish to be lectured for hours on its conclusion. Do not go if you have a weak stomach. But by all means, if you are even remotely interested in unorthodox, experimental film, mark this one down. Only two films into his career Pálfi has very clearly established himself as a true auteur, possessor of one of the most unique cinematic voices in the world.