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Taxidermia (The Guardian)
English (United Kingdom)
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Taxidermia (The Guardian)

E-mail Nyomtatás
by Peter Bradshaw
Friday July 13, 2007
Gyorgy Palfi is the Hungarian director who five years ago gave us Hukkle, or Hiccups, an elegantly odd, or perhaps oddly elegant quasi-silent comedy about strange goings-on in a remote village. Now, in conventional narrative terms, he has expanded his range and ambition and given us a bizarre and intricately interrelated magic-realist parable with a literary feel. It concerns the nightmarish squalor encoded in one unfortunate man's DNA: a genetic narrative that unfolds over three generations, or rather degenerations. Inspecting the details of this movie will allow you to see how they inter-connect. However, inspecting them may also make you want to clamp your hand over your mouth and run out into the cinema foyer, heading for the lavatories.
Csaba Czene is the grandfather, Morosgovanyi, a sexually frustrated army orderly in the second world war. Gergo Trocsanyi is his son Balatony, a grotesquely obese speed-eater who is part of the postwar Hungarian team promoting this national sport. Finally there is Balatony's son Lajos, played by the German actor Marc Bischoff: a lonely taxidermist obsessed with the ultimate challenge.
Morosgovanyi, a hunted-looking man with a harelip, is loathed for his ugliness, but hangs around the womenfolk at the barracks, and burns his own naked body with a candle during masturbation, during which he discovers he has the ability to ejaculate a naked flame. His penis is seriously mistreated by chickens, but his frustration is finally relieved with some rutting with a fat woman, and also with a dead pig's carcass. The two procreative events somehow fuse, spiritually - and horribly - to produce Balatony, a very fat boy with a pig's tail that is amputated at birth by his wincing father. In Balatony, lust becomes gluttony and his vocation is stuffing himself. Matrimony produces a son who inherits a version of this: he is a present-day taxidermist who wants to practise his skills on his own body. It's as if the narrative is punning on itself over three successive phases.
The movie is derived from short stories by the Hungarian author Lajos Parti Nagy, but Palfi is clearly influenced by Monty Python's Mr Creosote, particularly in the final, deplorable act of Balatony's life, and it also bears the mark of Günter Grass's Oskar Matzerath in The Tin Drum, although whether or not this gruesome dynasty is supposed to offer some parodic account of Hungary itself is an open question. It is a clever, agile, if probably over-elaborate and self-conscious exercise in tri-generational family epic. Its final flourish of revulsion could have been left to stand on its own: a stomach-turning image of the sort that the photographer Joel-Peter Witkin might have contrived. Instead, there is a coda when Lajos's final customer - a doctor with something pretty disturbing that he wants stuffed - delivers an anatomical lecture on the meaning of the taxidermist's career: an exegesis that could probably have been left to the audience to provide. There's something else about Gyorgy Palfi: a certain tendency to sub-Rabelaisian scenes of music, dancing and rumpy-pumpy that reminds me of Emir Kusturica's recent movies: much surface activity that masks a lack of ideas. Kusturica could well be an influence. One to be wary of. Aside from this, Taxidermia is a visually striking, provocative dish served up with the most horrid ingredients imaginable: greed, revulsion, alienation and loneliness.