Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Title: Taxidermia
Director: György Pálfi
Released: 2006
Staring: Csaba Czene, Trócsányi Gergõ, Marc Bischoff, Gyuricza István, Molnár Piroska, Máté Gábor, Hegedüs D. Géza, Stanczel Adél

Plot: The story of three generations of men from the same family starting with military orderly Morosgoványi (Czene) during the Second World War, moving onto his son Balatony Kálmán (Gergõ) an aspiring speed-eater during the Cold War and finally ending in the modern day with his Grandson Balatony Lajoska (Bischoff) a master Taxidermist, with all three driven by their own personal obsessions.

Review: While most bizarre or surreal movies such as the kind David Lynch has spent most of his career crafting, usually start off with atleast some sense of normality before spinning on what ever crazy path that the director has choosen to take. Director Pálfi however it would seem here has chosen to take the opposite track, by throwing the audience straight into the insanity and slowly bring the audience back to normality, for we are barely minutes into the film before we witness the hair lipped Morosgoványi not only engaging in one of his numerous sexual perversions (of which there are quite a few), but also turning his penis into a flamethrower! It was also at this point that I remembered why I no longer talk to my parents about the films I review on this blog.

Essentially three short films woven together, the second story moves the proceedings slightly more towards normality as we are introduced to Morosgoványi's son Kálmán and more graphically to the surreal world of speed eating, which in the hands of Pálfi is not the same happy go lucky competitions you may find at the county fair or featuring tiny asian ladies packing away 60 hotdogs in a minuite, but rather tests of sheer gastronomic fortitude as competitors challenge each other under strict time limits to seemingly eat their own weight in a variety of foods including one competition which see’s them attempting to consume gigantic blocks of jellied horse meat, while later scenes of a training camp for potential new champions see’s potentials eagerly shovelling semolina into their mouths ironically from a pig trough, with these scenes frequently followed by competitors purging themselves for the next round. Still it not all gorging and vomit for within this story of Kálmán and his highly competitive battle to be the best, especially when the champions of the sport are treated as heroes of the state, while fantastical mentions of stomach expansion and the Olympic boards refusal to recognize the sport help to keep a surreal edge on things, but what is more surprising here is that this is also a love story as Kálmán falls in love with a female competitor called Gizi (Stanczel) with this love story providing many of the lighter moments such them playfully bathing in the dead sea, while also leading into the third and final tale as Gizi gives birth to Lajoska, who much to his parents concern is born much smaller and frailer than his parents, while also processing none of their monstrous appetite.

Skip forward a several years and a return to normality…well as normal as this film gets anyway, as we rejoin Lajoska as an adult were he is now shown as the polar opposite to his father, a pale and skeleton like man who much to his fathers disappointment, has not carried on his legacy instead having become a master taxidermist, while his father has over the years grown into a human puddle, his wife having long since left him as he spends his days unable to move by himself due to his extreme girth and finding pleasure only in tormenting his son and the dozens of fat cats he keeps in a cage while bizarrely feeding them sticks of butter as part of some masterplan to make them champion eaters, all the while reminiscing of his glory days.

No doubt as a result of his fathers bullying Lajoska lives out a quite and largely solitary existence, with his only passion being for his grotesque work whose examples line the walls of his work shop, while his unquestionable skills bringing with it a variety of unusual requests from those keen to make use of his talent. However what drives Lajoska, is what he is secretly plotting for his masterpiece, which he hopes to be forever remembered.

Despite generating a fair amount of interest upon it’s release, unsurprising from the likes of “Bizarre” who tend to relish the more random and extreme cinematic releases, but since then it has rarely been mentioned since, but at the same time that could easily be attached to the art house styling which makes it far from assessable to a mainstream audience, while it’s subject matter also hardly makes for the lightest of viewing, much less with the frequently grotesque imagery continued within from a hen pecked penis to speed eaters gorging on fatty horse meat, it does feel at times like Pálfi is deliberately trying to test his audience, while more baffling is the fact that this is also branded as a comedy, especially when the few humorous moments should be classed as nothing short of inky black humour at best.

Though highly grotesque Pálfi also shows that he processes enough visual styling to please the tastes of the fans of visual driven directors such as Terry Gilliam and in particular Jean-Pierre Junet & Marc Caro who the films styling is frequently most comparable, with Kálmán’s section of the film certainly coming the closest to their style as especially seen during the scenes at the training camp, which see’s the trough being filled via over head crane, with their training taking place in what would appear to be a refurbished factory setting, meanwhile a continually rotating shot of a bathtub, shows it as being the centre of a household as it’s used for bathing, bread making and even at one point a makeshift morgue for the recently deceased, while the most ambitious shot see’s a pop up book brought to life as part of a particularly worrying fantasy of Morosgoványi.

“Taxidermia” is far from the easiest of films to watch and while no doubt there are deeper messages to be gained from the insanity within, they do have the tendency to get lost in the spectacle, the main focus though is clearly on the individual drives of the three men, be it love, success or immortality and how our drive to achieve these goals affects those around us while questioning to a point the price of obsession and lengths we are willing to go to achieve our goals in life. Needless to say it’s a strangely fascinating film and while it frequently tries to repulse its audience it somehow manages to draw you in at the same time. Needless to say this is bold and frequently exciting film making but one best viewed with a strong stomach and an very open mind.


  1. Lots of symbolisms on this one, it's a heavy horror film that can be seen in many ways. I've read reviews that give it political implications and meanings. I didnt see it this way since I am not familiar with Hungarian political history. My favorite story was definetly the last one, about the fat dad and the skinny son, I saw lot's of symbolisms on that story about the baggage we carry from generation to generation. Great stuff, this movie is artsier than your regular horror film. And I agree, it evokes Gilliam and Jeunet.

  2. I know that some of the more scolarly critics have come out with a whole heap of intresting theories for this one including one which incorperated the humours theory of medieval medicine, but like you I didn't get any major political message from this film and I like'd the theory you brought up in your review (http://filmconnoisseur.blogspot.com/2010/06/taxidermia-2006.html) regarding the relationship between Lajoska and his father being representive of Capitalism.

    No doubt this is a film which folks will take on surface value or ponder over it's themes endlessly.

  3. I'm here solely for the cats and the competitive eating! Combine the two, sold! But I feel you, I don't 'get' the political stuff going on here, but the aesthetic is a-ok. Makes for some entertaining, if not tedious at times, viewing.

  4. I agree Jenn, there are some testing moments in this film, the first story in perticular tested my patience, but the second story about Kálmán's speed eating glory days to be the strongest part. Still not sure why he choose cat's to be continue his legacy as not exactly reknown for thier speed eating abilities, but no doubt there is a bunch of cat owners out there ready to prove that theory wrong :)


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