This Hungarian freak-out isn’t really a horror movie, yet I believe
it will be best appreciated by horror fans--matter of fact, horror buffs
may be the only ones who truly “get” this film, a weird and perplexing
exercise in sheer grossness.
TAXIDERMIA, adapted from stories by Lajos Parti Nagy,
was completed in 2006 and released in the US three years later--where it
briefly took the place of
MARTYRS as the gross-out spectacle of the moment. Its gifted
director Gyorgy Palfi is best known for HUKKLE (2002). That film is an
oft-kilter modern fairy tale, and the highly fanciful TAXIDERMIA appears
to have similar aims.
The 1940s: Morosgovanyi, a military man stationed in a
rural environ, finds he can shoot flames from the tip of his penis.
That’s on those rare occasions when he’s not being tormented by his
sadistic superior or spying on some women living nearby. Eventually
Morosgovanyi’s is caught screwing a pig carcass by his superior--and
pays a harsh price.
Following this a woman living nearby gives birth to a
baby boy (presumably the offspring of Morosgovanyi) with a pig’s tale.
The tale is snipped off and Kalman, as the child is named, grows up to
become a competitive eater in the 1960s. He pines over a curvy woman
who, visiting Kalman in the hospital after he develops lockjaw in the
middle of a competition, drips sweat from her armpit into his mouth. The
two get married shortly thereafter and father a child.
The creepy Balatony is that child, who in the 1980s
becomes a taxidermist. He also takes care of his father, who’s become a
massively obese blob. Kalman’s spouse has long since left him and his
life is clearly at an end, yet, in a pathetic effort at regaining his
former title, the old man trains a couple house cats to be competitive
eaters. He despises Balatony, and the feeling is mutual. As for the
cats, it seems Kalman has trained them a bit too well, as they wind up
killing him and ripping out his insides. Upon finding his father’s
corpse Balatony is inspired to undertake his grandest project yet,
building a machine that will allow him to use his taxidermy skills on
What precisely is the point of this crazy film? Frankly
I’m not sure. It may be an “outrageous ode to flesh,” as one reviewer
claims, or an absurdist rendering of mid-20th Century
Hungary, or possibly just an eccentric family saga.
The film is weird and often confusing in its free
incorporation of hallucination and surrealism into an otherwise
straightforward three-part narrative. That narrative doesn’t follow any
conventional storytelling rules, yet is quite rigorous in its
construction--indeed as much so the tightly controlled filmmaking.
Imagine the films of France’s Jean-Pierre Jeunet (DELICATESSON,
THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, AMELIE) with the outrageousness amplified a
thousand-fold and you’ll have the gist of this project. Director Gyorgy
Palfi has a vision as distinct as that of any modern filmmaker, and the
talent to bring that vision to fruition. The images are tightly and
impeccably composed, with an austere beauty that nearly offsets all the
vomit, viscera and assorted vileness. The art direction conveys a vast
and ambitious fantasy universe that comes complete with copious special
effects of every conceivable variety. Confounding and possibly pointless
TAXIDERMIA may be, but as a visually stunning work of demented
imagination it has few equals.
Regent Releasing/Frotissimo Films
Director: Gyorgy Palfi
Producers: Peter Miskolczi, Gabor Varadi, Gabriele Kranzelbinder,
Alexander Dumriecher-Ivanceanu, Emilie Georges, Alexandre Mallet-Guy
Screenplay: Zsofia Ruttkay, Gyorgy Palfi
(Based on stories by Lajos Parti Nagy)
Cinematography: Gergely Poharnok
Editing: Reka Lemhenyi
Cast: Csaba Czene, Gergo Trocsanyi, Marc Bischoff, Istvan Gyuricza,
Piroska Molnar, Gabor Mate, Geza Hegedus D., Istvan Hunyadkurti, Zoltan
Koppany, Adel Stanczel, Istvan Znamenak, Peter Blasko