Hungary, Austria, France

Synopsis

Three stories. Three ages. Three men.Grandfather, father, son. One is an orderly, one is a leading sportsman, and one is a master taxidermist. One desires love, the other success, and the third immortality.
The grandfather lives in his fantasies and on cold winter evenings he warms up his his freezing little shed with his feverish dreams. Nothing can stop his fertile imagination.
The father stuffs himself. For four years he was the first in his section in the Confectionary Industry.He is still unbeatable in chocolate wafers with an individual record of 2.98 (just as a comparison Igor Vostongonoff was the European champion in Sofia with 3.21).
The son stuffs animals. He was born one and a half kilos.Now he has less than one and a half minutes left. He goes in for something that nobody has ever imagined before.

Director's Statement

TAXIDERMIA is like a family novel, but it’s a film — yet not a family film; it is an auteur film. My aim was to create not just an auteur film but an enduring, personal auteur film.
The concept of a family novel would suggest a saga structured like the work of Thomas Mann. In this vein, TAXIDERMIA is comprised of three generations: grandfather, father, and son. The grandfather creates the foundation of the family; he is a primeval force, or primal originator, who sets the world in motion. With much effort, the father takes what he has inherited to its peak. On the other hand, the son rejects the values of both his father and his grandfather.
I treat the story of the three generations as a sketch created by a single artist, hence its uniformity. Yet, unlike in conventional sketches, a feature-length narrative emerges about three different lives. Spectators fill in the gaps between the stories with their imagination.
There are no formal transitions. Yes, there are three different stories, three historical periods, three different worlds. Yet the underlying system of motifs — repeated images, movements, and symbols — plus a single team of artists combine to create a singular work and therefore a uniform experience for viewers.
I found a world in Lajos Parti Nagy’s short stories which could be mine as well. Two of them are the basis of this tale of a family. I added the third, that of the grandson Lajos.
At the center of each of the three stories stands the body, naturalistic yet with surreal desires. Just as the body is overcome by desire, so naturalism is overcome by surrealism, which organizes the variations of physicality into a single aesthetic system. Every element of the film is highly specific, as is every shot. Yet the juxtaposition of two disparate elements produces something new, magical. The cruel and constant storytelling has an emotional brutality that is even stronger than the images of brutality. The film explores the extreme boundaries of human life and their limits.
I wanted to break a filmmaking taboo and show the erect phallus in Vendel’s sex scenes. After all, forced into a lowly existence, he hopes to attain pleasure and liberation by means of this organ. At the same time, I wanted to add an air of gentle playfulness to these “pornographic” scenes, the feeling contemporary viewers get when they see sex photographs from the early twentieth century.
The sport in which Kálmán competes is no different from other sports that require extreme physical achievement, those that are considered normal in many parts of the world. His huge volume is the equivalent of a sumo wrestler’s enormous build, the gigantic muscles of a weightlifter, the great height of a basketball player, even the emaciated frame of a fakir. Kálmán’s sport, however, has never been featured in any official competition. Given the values of the period, it could have been. This is not revolting, animal-like behavior, but a natural part of the competition, a feat expected of a champion and worthy of envy.
When his body becomes a sculpture, Lajos the person vanishes. He leaves behind only a torso made out of material that no longer bears a name. His profane project — attempting to imitate the work of God, creating a “perfect piece of art” — makes him immortal not only as artist but as body. The body — which nature makes perfect though it is condemned to decay — becomes here a display for exhibition halls. It lies somewhere between Duchamp’s FOUNTAIN and Michelangelo’s DAVID.

Director's Biography

György Pálfi first picked up a Super 8 camera at the age of 13 and decided to become a filmmaker. He studied directing from 1995-2000 at the Theatre and Film Academy in Budapest under Sándor Simó. His latest film, TAXIDERMIA, which he co-wrote with his wife, Zsófia Ruttkay, won the award for Best Film and the Gene Moskowitz Prize of Foreign Critics at the 37th Hungarian Filmweek. Their screenplay won the Sundance/NHK award for Best European Film Project in 2004.
Palfi’s first feature, HUKKLE, won the Fassbinder Award of the European Film Academy in 2002, and Best First Film, the Gene Moskowitz Prize of Foreign Critics, the Student Award, and the Hungarian Critics Award at the 33rd Hungarian Filmweek. He shared the Best Collective Creators prize, and also earned the Best Producers prize at the 34th Hungarian Film Week for his segment “SHAMAN VS. ICARUS” in the omnibus film A BUS CAME… Before that he directed several shorts, including BREAK AND CSEKK II (1995), THE FISH-ICHTYS (1997), DEVIL’S KNOT, THE 7TH ROOM IN THE KNOCK-KNOCK (1999), and ROUND AND ROUND (1999), the last of which played at numerous international festivals.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: György Pálfi

Written by: Zsofia Ruttkay, György Pálfi

Cinematography: Gergely Pohárnok

Cast: Adel Stanczel (Gizi), Gergely Trocsanyi (Kálmán), Csaba Czene (Vendel), Marc Bischoff (Lajoska)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2006