Taxidermia (2006)

Three stories. Three generations. Three men. One bizarre and shocking universe.
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Taxidermia - Three stories. Three generations. Three men. One bizarre and shocking universe.

Have you ever wanted to make a film so absolutely stacked with wrongness that even the text version of the screenplay would have the BBFC nervously reaching for their safety scissors? Have you? Do visions of necro-incest and gut-fucking dance regularly through your head, as you're trying desperately to look normal in front of all the other people who don't know what you're really like? It's true, isn't it? It's okay. You can tell me. We're all friends here. And I am here to give you some advice on how you can get away with it, should you ever decide to turn your well-worn hand to directing. This, ladies and gents, is how you get into the privileged position of showering your viewers with images so perplexing and disturbing that forever more they'll expect that someone is about to get their skull deflowered - even if they're watching The Lion King at the time.

Hellbound Heart's Guide To Getting Away With Murder (for starters):

1: Make the film in a language other than English, and preferably one that no one will recognise any words from, so, for example, Romanian more than German, because even most of the Great Unwashed will recognise 'das ist gut' or maybe 'Guten Tag' and that makes them overconfident. Critics can often start second-guessing themselves when faced with a completely unfamiliar culture, though, as they don't want to make themselves look like twats who just aren't in the know. Bear that in mind.

2: This next bit is absolutely vital. Intimate just enough about the film being a political allegory. You don't have to go into great details, and you don't even have to say anything per se (though you can if you want) but put enough in there to bewilder the audience and make them think that this might, like, have something to do with, like, oppression and that type of thing. That really exercises 'em. If it's a political allegory taking place in a country where the viewer and/or critic doesn't even have any fucking idea of how to say 'hello' then so much the better, they will be putty in your hands. Now have at it. What is in your mind? Oh...right...

I may sound unduly cynical here, but really speaking, I've been amused by how easily this particular coup has been staged in the movies. A famous example of this would have to be A Serbian Film, of course. Sure, it got edited by the British film censors before they'd release it, but when you think about the fact that a film hinting at newborn porn got enough people stroking their chins and pondering the plight of the Serbs whilst often knowing precisely bugger all about Serbia beyond 'They had a war, didn't they?' then you'll see what I mean. Had it been A Sunderland Film and Milos been an old perv called Wayne, would we have thought it was art? See? Make a political allegory. You'll be glad you did. I'm currently contemplating using CrowdSource to get a film made which allegorises the plight of the oppressed thirteenth-century Welsh through the medium of some of my friends trying to vomit 20/20 up each others noses without laughing. And speaking of vomit...

Before A Serbian Film was even a glint in A Serbian Director's eye, there was Taxidermia (2006). Taxidermia is, in practically all regards, a superior film to the later film, and you don't have to look very far on sites like IMDb before seeing opinions on the political significance therein. Saying that, there's probably a lot more to Taxidermia, and enough there to make a case for the shenanigans being symbolic of the changing face of Hungary between the close of WWII and the modern day. Or, you could just laugh yourself half to death at the eating contest scene with its therapeutic puking, as happens to the editor of this site (seriously, run away! He got me as a writer by tracking me down to my IP address.) So, bearing this in mind, there now follows two mini-reviews. The first contemplates the political significance to be found in this example of visceral world cinema. The second review is more for the proles amongst us, who enjoy having their corneas disgraced on a regular basis.

Taxidermia: a political allegory of post-war Hungary (with some spoilers)

The lowly military orderly - and, as we discover, grandfather - who commences our story shows us the fate of the downtrodden in the Hungary of the 1940s, as he suffers under the auspices of his duties towards his lieutenant and superior. The frozen landscape and bitter isolation of this locale symbolises the inflexible, unchanging level of stasis in Hungary at this time - the effects of fascism, a system which was about to be replaced by one just as brutal and intractable. Orderly Morosgoványi is a fantasist and a serial masturbator, given to visions of importance and satisfaction which demonstrate his desire to rise above his lowly station. However, in one instance he has transgressed against his superior, and sleeps with his boss's wife (an image conflated with a sexual act with a slaughtered animal, which is a future-echo of the fate of the current powers-that-be, as well as a pertinent reminder of Morosgoványi's current hellish personal situation.) This reduced character is in actual fact the father of the son born to Lieutenant Kálmán - the real father, symbol of fascist Hungary, is executed so that his son, symbol of Communist Hungary, can be born. "Kálmán" Jr. grows into an engorged, obese man - a competitor at 'Speed-Eating', a sport symbolising the corruption and bloatedness of Hungary under the Communist system; if we consider the idea of the Body Politic, then Taxidermia shows us the progression from subservience (bodily deprivation) to 'superiority' (actually bodily torpor and literal sickness) between the two generations. The final generation then, Kálmán's son, suffers for the sins of his father - himself withering and emaciated, he must continue to prop up the ailing Communist state i.e. his father, whilst seeking work as a taxidermist - again, just as he must sustain his wicked father, he is engaged in preserving the old order; that which has been, rather that what will come in future. The pressures of this lead him to take the ultimate step, and thus the final generation is also frozen in time due to the fate of its predecessors. Lajoska, the emaciated son, has no future, and he expresses this literally and bodily. We see in Taxidermia a country addled by immobility, as the mistakes of each generation overcome the next.

Taxidermia: fuck me, it's batshit insane (with some, err, spoilers)

Glory holes? Check. Pig sodomy? Oh, my. Check. Headshot? Quite probably. Also check. Fat blokes? Check. Fat blokes with personal trainers helping them to puke so that they can speed-eat? Ewww. Check. Someone being trapped in a chair by their ass, rather than being tied to it? At last! Check. Cat-related people eating? Check. Self-evisceration? Nice finale. Check. The feeling of 'What the fuck did I just watch?' Check.

So - a scintillating look at the fate of Hungary over the decades, or an excessive excuse for lob-ons and technicolour yawning? You be the judge, folks. I think there's space enough to enjoy it on two levels, if 'enjoy' is the verb I want here. What really matters is that this is a sharp, gritty looking piece of filmmaking with an abundance of well-acted, if grotesque, performances; I watch a lot of films, and I forget a lot of films - but I can't forget this one. Even if that's mainly because I can hear Mr. Horror Extreme watching and rewinding, watching and rewinding the same puking scene over and over again from this cellar I'm in.
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