Taxidermia (2006)
By: Julian on September 24, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Hungarian 2.0. English Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: György Pálfi
Starring: Csaba Czene, Gergely Trócsányi, Marc Bischoff, Adél Stanczel
Screenplay: György Pálfi
Music: Amon Tobin
Country: Hungary
I consider myself a strong-stomached filmgoer. Unscathed by the likes of Flowers of Flesh and Blood, knocked (but not beaten) by August Underground's Mordum and relatively unmoved by the OTT-antics of Cannibal Holocaust, I remain generally unaffected by the content of a film.

Until Taxidermia.

It may not be overtly violent like Flowers, Mordum or Holocaust, but Taxidermia remains one of the most disturbing films I have seen, and there are moments that evoke true nausea. Hungarian filmmaker György Pálfi's latest directorial feat, which was officially selected to screen at the Cannes, Melbourne International and Sydney Film Festivals, is probably the most recent picture to come out of the Central European neo-exploitation cycle. Preceded by the likes of Nekromantik and Schramm, the name György Pálfi could certainly be added alongside those of Andrey Iskanov and Jorg Buttgereit when it comes to artsy shock pictures. Taxidermia is the sickest, most twisted and most blackly comic film to be released on Australian DVD and showcases a formidable force in horror filmmaking.

Based on the short stories by Lajos Parti Nagy, Taxidermia is the tale of three generations of a particularly perverse Hungarian family, beginning with grandfather Morosgoványi (Czene) during World War Two. Morosgoványi is an orderly for a military Lieutenant and, due to a bit of a backwards intellectual capacity, Morosgoványi is relegated to cleaning out the pigsties, preparing wash basins and completing domestic chores too dirty for the camp's women. During his spare time, Morosgoványi discovers, and relishes, his newfound talent of being able to ejaculate fire (an ability which may or may not be a dream), but his sexual perversions grow more and more disturbing. His sexual appetite is whetted by his voyeuristic tendencies, as well as obediently listening to the Lieutenant's diatribes about how women's sex organs make the world go around. This finally culminates in a bit of necrophiliac bestiality, which leads to Morosgoványi's demise.

Morosgoványi's life of decadence eventually produces a child, Kálmán (Trócsányi). Kálmán is a professional speed eater, and he is good at what he does – in front of masses of people, he will eat kilograms upon kilograms of bean soup, fish pâté or caviar, before purging in a huge trough (alongside his fellow competitors) behind the grandstands. During each round, he attempts to win the admiration of the female speed-eating champion Gizi (Adel Stanczel). Although Kálmán's coach implores his concentration, the grossly obese speed eater's love is too great, and he marries Gizi in an elaborate ceremony. Gizi falls pregnant and the child, whom much to Kálmán's horror is underweight, is named Lajos.

We fast-forward around twenty-five years and find Lajos (Marc Bischoff) to be a pasty, pathetic weed of a man, who has made his niche in the art of taxidermy. Lajos is well respected in his field and is completely amoral in his work, even taxiderming the fetus of a child to turn it into a key ring at the request of a well-to-do businessman. When not working or trying to get the attention of a local supermarket cashier, Lajos passes the time by looking after Kálmán, who has become a morbidly obese frump (which showcases the best use of a fat suit I have ever seen). When father and son have an argument, Lajos leaves the house, refusing to speak to his father again. He returns some time later to find his father eviscerated by his pet cats and, wracked with guilt, returns to his workshop for his final taxidermy.

It would be impossible to do Taxidermia justice in a relatively spoiler-free review – the generations split the film up into almost-even thirds with a brief epilogue, thus it is near impossible not to give away any final plot details.

Taxidermia is a difficult picture to place within any one genre – its content is as shocking as the most blatant of exploitation pictures, however it is magnificently directed, acted and shot, adopting a decidedly art house vibe. Taxidermia is certainly one of the best European films of the decade and makes for a thoroughly grotesque hour and a half – I challenge you to have your eyes glued to the screen during Kálmán's regurgitation of untold litres of bean soup, or the final grisly taxidermy. It's very likely that Pálfi got away with making such a disgusting picture by simply adding its comedic tone. There are scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny and act as comic relief between the heavy-going gore and depravity, especially within the first and final thirds.

Grisly and disturbing, Taxidermia is required viewing for the jaded horror/exploitation fan. It may be too artsy for some, but it is definitely an acquired taste, and Pálfi has made a genuinely beautiful film. Its free availability in Australia, made possible by the fact that the OFLC took off their conservative hats and classified it (films have been banned for far less), gives the connoisseur of fine grotesquery no excuse not to seek this one out. Go see it, now!
The picture, presented in a 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 aspect ratio, looks flawless. The cinematography by award-winning Hungarian cameraman Gergely Pohárnok is outstanding, and Siren's excellent transfer does it justice.
One Hungarian 2.0 mono track. The sound is clear and crisp. English subtitles are optional.
Extra Features
An interesting ten-minute interview between the director and Australian film critic David Stratton is the main feature of this disc. Pálfi speaks about Taxidermia's inspiration and the source of the sexual taboo material. Most of the interview is in Hungarian, with optional English subtitles. The interview is quite intriguing and gives insight into Pálfi's technique as a director and screenwriter. A theatrical trailer is also included.

The disc itself comes in a very nice gatefold case, with the movie's most iconic (and definitely one of the least kiddy-friendly) images on the inner sleeve, as well as a small bio on Pálfi.
The Verdict
One of the most audacious and perverse European films I've seen, Taxidermia is a surrealistic masterpiece by a man who very clearly knows what he is doing. Kudos to Siren for releasing this film – it would have been a total shame had it faded into cult obscurity like many of its predecessors. With Taxidermia, György Pálfi has definitely become a name to watch – a star-studded future looks nigh, at least among cult echelons. Highly recommended.
Movie Score
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