Archive for July, 2013

taxidermia (2006)

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Taxidermia poster 2

“Taxidermia” is a Hungarian film charting key points in the lives of 3 generations of the same family.

The first part of the film finds Hungary under Nazi occupation and centres around a downtrodden, lust-filled onanist and his bizarre sexual flights of fantasy. The middle third follows his son and is a love story set against a backdrop of communism and speed eating. The final section is set in modern day capitalist hungary with the retired gurgitator now a bitter old man, so large that he cannot leave his tiny apartment, being cared for by his tiny emaciated son who has become a master taxidermist.

The film is at times very funny, at times truly horrific and consistently visually jaw-dropping. scratch beneath the surreal surface and there is more to this film than the gross-out “euro arthouse torture porn” it was marketed as outside of it’s home country. Director Gyorgy Palfi has slavishly crafted an allegorical retelling of Hungarian history since the 2nd world war. As a satire of the development of the country, the film works incredibly well. However, despite being one of the films strengths, this does cause the film’s biggest problems.

The very best allegories (like Orwell’s “Animal Farm”) function as both a metaphor and as a narrative. With “Taxidermia” the characters are pure ciphers, mere storytelling devices. At times you are left wondering exactly why a character would act the way they do, while the plot occasionally veers into the nonsensical as Palfi stretches the allegory to breaking point in trying to make it all fit.

The middle section is the standout, having real heart, “wtf” humour and a standout performance by Gergely Trocsanyi, a turn full of stoic charm. The rest of the cast is somewhat hit and miss, seemingly cast because of their unusual looks rather than acting talent.

You will get the most from this film if you have a basic knowledge of Hungarian history, although it seems fair to point out that the symbolism is, in general, far from subtle (one of the characters literally enjoys playing with fire) so you won’t require a degree in semiotics to unpack any meanings. Don’t let that put you off the film though; there is real enjoyment to be had going in cold and letting it wash over you. This is a surreal, visually stunning film and the atmosphere is greatly enhanced by a terrifically ambient soundtrack by Amon Tobin.

The film isn’t quite as important as it wanted to be, but it is still a great achievement and well worth a watch; although a strong stomach and an open mind are recommended.