WTFW: Taxidermia (2006)

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WTFW: Taxidermia (2006)

Taxidermia is a 2006 Hungarian comedy-drama horror film directed by György Pálfi.  The film is a metaphorical socio-political retelling of Hungary's history from the Second World War to the present day.  The story is told by means of three generations of men from Hungary, beginning with a military orderly during the Second World War, moving on to an aspiring speed-eater during the Cold War, and concluding with a taxidermist during modern times. The film has elements of dark comedy and body horror.  Taxidermia was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.


Taxidermia (2006)

  • Genre: Comedy – Drama – Horror
  • Directed: György Pálfi
  • Produced:
    • Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu 
    • Emilie Georges 
    • Gabriele Kranzelbinder 
    • Alexandre Mallet-Guy 
    • Péter Miskolczi 
    • Gábor Váradi
  • Written:
    • Lajos Parti Nagy (Short Stories) 
    • György Pálfi (Screenplay) 
    • Zsófia Ruttkay (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Csaba Czene, Gergely Trócsányi, Marc Bischoff, István Gyuricza, Piroska Molnár, Gábor Máté, Géza Hegedüs D., Zoltán Koppány, Erwin Leder, Adél Stanczel, Éva Kuli, Lajos Parti Nagy
  • Music:
    • Albert Márkos 
    • Amon Tobin
  • Cinematography: Gergely Pohárnok
  • Editing: Réka Lemhényi
  • Studio:
    • Amour Fou Filmproduktion 
    • Eurofilm Stúdió 
    • Katapult Film 
    • La Cinéfacture 
    • Memento Films Production
  • Distributed:
    • Memento Films  
    • Regent Releasing  
    • Tartan  
    • E1 Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 19 May 2006 (France) 
    • October 2006 (USA)
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country:
    • Hungary 
    • Austria 
    • France
  • Language:
    • Hungarian 
    • English 
    • Russian

Taxidermia contains three generational stories, about a grandfather, a father, and a son, linked together by recurring motifs.  The dim grandfather, an orderly during World War Two, lives in his bizarre fantasies; he desires love.  The huge father seeks success as a top athlete — a speed eater — in the postwar pro-Soviet era.  The grandson, a meek, small-boned taxidermist, yearns for something greater: immortality.  He wants to create the most perfect work of art of all time by stuffing his own torso.

Historical facts and surrealism become intertwined as magical realism, like in the works of Gabriel García Marquez or the Hungarian writer Lajos Parti Nagy; the script is based on two of the latter’s stories.  Palfi added the third story, that of the grandson the taxidermist.  The first section begins with a disembodied voice pontificating obliquely about creation and three generations, explaining that if something has to end, the beginning has to be important.  Immediately we see the grandfather, Vendel Morosgoványi, who is berated by his lieutenant in a remote outpost, with only the lieutenant’s fat wife and two beautiful daughters around.  He retreats into the realm of gratification, no matter how extreme.  He peeps in the daughters’ bath, drinks the girls’ dirty bathwater, masturbates until his penis emits flames of fire, and sleeps with the lieutenant’s wife.  She becomes pregnant and the lieutenant blows off Vendel’s head — but raises his child, Kálmán.

In the second part, Kálmán has become obese and competes for Hungary in eating competitions that their backers hope will be recognized by the International Olympic Committee.  Against a backdrop of empty Communist spectacle and military poseurs, Kálmán strives to win.  He meets up with an oversized woman, Gizella, another speed eating competitor, and the two get married, although she has sex with his teammate during the wedding party.  She and Kálmán embark on a long honeymoon, returning to their respective factories to practice.  Gizella gives birth to a tiny, tiny son, Lajos.

Section three, which is contemporary, is calmer, less manic than the previous two.  Lajos has become a quiet taxidermist who has no prospects in love; he is rejected by the supermarket cashier, for one.  He is as frustrated in his way as his grandfather was in his, but Lajos’s fertile imagination will prove to work in a very different way.  His father, Kálmán, has reached enormous proportions and can no longer move.   Kálmán’s wife has long ago left him, so Lajos brings food and cleans the apartment where Kálmán sits amidst boxes of food and the three cats he pushes to overeat.  One day Lajos finds Kálmán dead, possibly having exploded from overeating or having been mauled by one of the cats.  He stuffs him, and immediately after, begins stuffing himself by locking his body onto a board surrounded by perfectly attuned machines.  At the end of the procedure, a glass blade he has set up decapitates him and an electric saw severs his right arm.  The two men are found by a customer, Dr. Regőczy, who puts them on display at a chic art exhibition.  Dr. Regőczy, whose lecture is a continuation of the voiceover at the very beginning of the film, maintains that one can mount one’s father and oneself but can not mount the essence, that being what Lajos felt at the moment the blade cut off his head.  The camera moves into the black void beyond Lajos’s bellybutton.


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