A tripartite set of grotesquerie and bad taste, György Pálfi’s Taxidermia offers a menu of surreal, disgusting dishes as three generations of Hungarian men pursue their extreme appetites for sex, food, and immortality. Be warned, this one is difficult to digest.
This idiosyncratic tragicomedy begins with a oafish pervert named Morosgovanyi (Csaba Czene), a Soviet soldier who is used and abused by his superior regiment. His only means of rebellion is to run into the shadows and stick his dick into everything he can find: a tub of ice water, the wall of a shed, and eventually into either his lieutenant’s wife or possibly a dead pig. Through an unnervingly beautiful dreamlike style, Pálfi makes it difficult for us to tell the difference.
The product of this liaison is pig-tailed Kalman (Gergo Trocsanyi), an unlikely athlete aspiring desperate to be crowned as the world’s best professional eater. Kalman, much like the swine who is at least spiritually, if not literally, his mother, spends most of his time at a trough, slurping down gelatinous food then vomiting it back up in a communal purge. Eat. Sick. Repeat. Although never truly meeting his aspirations, Kalman meets the sadistic loves of his life and fellow professional eater Gizi (Adel Stanczel). Pedalling off into the sunset, the highlight of his working career is being able to brag about a technique of regurgitation named after him. His piggy mum would have been so proud, if only he hadn’t eaten her.
Then onto the final episode in this repulsive trilogy, Kalman’s present day son Lajos (Mark Bischoff) doesn’t appear to have inherited any of the family genes or appetite. Thin, pallid, a walking skeleton, Lajos balances his time from managing his taxidermy business to tending to his now Jabba-the-Hut-esque father whose only remaining goal in life is to train his cats to eat everything in sight. Although reaching David Lynch levels of creepy, Lajos looks like the first of his family that could be, at the very least, not a psychopath. That is, until the film’s close, when we see that the apple hasn’t fell too far from this rotting family tree.
Able to inflict disgust on his audience with virtually every scene, it’s remarkable, and perhaps even worrying how enjoyable Pálfi’s Taxidermia is. Even if the film’s closing thirty minutes is a tad underwhelming, the gluttonous middle fable is astounding. With the engrossing soundtrack from Brazilian composer Amon Tobin filling the sonic stage, Kalman’s competitive gorging is accompanied by the Communist pageantry associated with the grandest athletic spectacles which would leave London 2012 Opening Ceremony director Danny Boyle aghast. Pálfi’s 360 degree, spiralling pan of the eaters at the vomit trough is rather majestic, graceful even; which only reinstates the sense of discomfort threading throughout this unforgettable dark comedy.
Taxidermia is a strikingly oxymoronic film. With high-art vision presenting the most lowly, wretched stories imaginable, Pálfi’s allegory on Hungary’s modern history is a beast which many might find too difficult to tame. If you bite the bullet and decided to give Taxidermia a spin, leave the popcorn in the cupboard. You won’t need it.