The subset of cinephiles who like their movies in the “I dare you to watch this” mold will likely make a quick cult item out of Taxidermia, which is easily one of the most disgusting movies ever made. György Pálfi’s dark comedy is full of sexual perversity, vomiting, and vivisection, all in service of one of those “humans are naught but meat and want” meditations that’s compelling on the surface, if perhaps philosophically empty. A triptych film spanning three generations, Taxidermia begins as the story of Csaba Czene, a soldier so sexually frustrated that he inserts his penis into anything moist and/or gooey, be it a greased knothole or a mound of pig guts. Then the movie becomes the story of Czene’s son, Gergö Trócsányi, a Cold War-era competitive eater ensnared in a love triangle. And it ends as the story of the now-bloated Trócsányi’s troubled relationship with his rail-thin taxidermist son Marc Bischoff. All these interlocking tales exist squarely in the realm of allegory and absurdity—realists need not apply.
That said, Taxidermia is frequently funny, for those who can stomach it. The imaginative minutiae surrounding Soviet Bloc eating competitions is particularly sharp, with its references to a skillful “cross-swallow” and government-sponsored “throat expansions.” And though it rings a little false when Trócsányi pontificates about how he likes the idea of consuming so much that he gets bigger inside, Taxidermia does have moments of less-forced wonder. Some are grotesque, as when Czene sucks on a candle while masturbating and ejaculates flame, or when Bischoff dissects and preserves his own body, in lovingly photographed detail. And some are more lyrical, as when Czene takes a whiff of two ladies’ used bathwater and imagines the tub as a place where babies sleep, bread dough is kneaded, and corpses are laid out for their wakes (all shown by Pálfi in a geometry-defying rotating shot). At one point in Taxidermia, Pálfi takes the viewer inside a pop-up book, which seems wholly appropriate. This movie is a pop-up book, crossed with an illustrated manual of sexually transmitted diseases.