International Cinema: Taxidermia

 Read our review of Taxidermia
Andrew takes on the Hungarian gag-reflex inducing magnum opus, Taxidermia.

You get to drink from the fire hose!!!
There are few films out there in the world which manage to test the human gag reflexes at every turn scene after scene in ways you never imagined quite like the Hungarian surrealist horror comedy Taxidermia.  Loosely based on short stories by Lajos Parti Nagy and directed by Gyorgy Palfi, the eccentric realisateur of Hukkle, this tale of overindulgence, familial lineage, animal slaughter followed by bestiality, unsimulated sexuality, vomit, semen and some of the most explicit blood and gore seen in the movies in a very, very long time, Taxidermia may well be the prettiest looking and sounding gross out movie in living memory.  From the opening sequence of a man masturbating as his penis shoots fire like a blowtorch to the midsection of eating contests with lots of regurgitation, a morbidly obese man chowing down on candy bars without removing the foil wrap, graphic scenes of taxidermy, a close-up of a bird defecating and finally the most graphic sequence of self-disembowelment since the Nine Inch Nails video Happiness in Slavery, Taxidermia simply has it all and more.  With the eyes of a diamond cutter, visual flair of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and more than a little bit of Gaspar Noe extremism adorning every scene, Taxidermia is the only time I ever got sick in a movie theater and watched with amazement that the film existed at all.  Shot so beautifully with lush production design yet depicting scenes designed to make you lose your lunch, this is one of the most bizarre, disturbing, disgusting and strangely funny foreign films on our planet!

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Performances on all fronts are strong including a cameo by the author himself and a brief appearance by veteran Austrian actor Erwin Leder (Das Boot; Angst; Schindler's List), but they are all in service to the director's wholly uncompromising vision which is like a lovely velvet laced art book with horrific images on the inside.  Aiding the film's ornate widescreen cinematography by Gergely Poharnok is world famous Brazilian electronic musician Amon Tobin, who provides an eclectic, otherworldly mixture of natural instruments, electronica and orchestral strings to create a wholly unnerving listening experience.  

Bring me the tasty head of Luke Skywalker. 

Also key to the film's success is the sound design, particularly in the last act where you can every every inch of entrails oozing from an open abdomen and every squish of internal organs removed from their intended place.  Running through all of this is a thread about a truly deranged family dynasty, serving as a loose critique of Hungarian history from WWII to the present while also ruminating on the family tree's tendency to overindulge whether it be masturbatory, overeating or self-starvation.  Generally when we think of obscenely grotesque body horror, David Cronenberg is the artist we turn to.  While Gyorgy Palfi only has a couple features to his name, he singlehandedly made a film that may in fact be more utterly revolting and deeply disturbing than anything in Cronenberg's entire filmography!

Hey you up there! Yeah Jabba.
You cannot eat me. No way. 
One of the few times I feel dutiful in telling potential moviegoers to view at their own risk, Taxidermia is defiantly, willfully, and uncompromisingly not for most people.  From the deviant sexuality on display to the truly sickening images of gorging one's self on food and finally deconstruction of our own bodies, this is a movie that even the hardest gorehound horror fans will have difficulty sitting through.  From beginning to end, this is a hardcore art house movie that can and will get under your skin when it isn't teasing you into throwing up your own guts.  

So well made it cannot be easily dismissed but so extreme it can't be taken lightly, Taxidermia is truly a movie for staunch cinephiles who want their films a little rougher around the edges than most are used to.  As for myself, I thought it was brilliant and truly a work that beat to the tune of its own drum, perfectly happy to be as shockingly revolting visually and contextually as it could.  One of the only films I'm aware of where fellow filmgoers wished they thought twice before proceeding with viewing, Taxidermia is arguably a John Waters film with the eyes of the men behind Amelie and Irreversible.  There's really nothing even remotely like Taxidermia out there and if this review has managed to pique your curiosity, by all means check it out but don't say I didn't warn you.


 - Andrew Kotwicki