This shock opens Hungarian director Gy�rgy Pálfi’s Taxidermia, and it sets the tone perfectly. A live-action Friz Freleng cartoon with touches of Jean- Pierre Jeunet and David Lynch, this masterpiece showcases all manners of the horrifying, comic and surreal as it follows three generations of a bizarre family.
The journey begins in a Hungarian no-man’s land during World War II where a beleaguered soldier toils under a hard lieutenant until his perverted passions get the best of him.
The story moves to mid-1960s Soviet glory where the lieutenant’s son has grown into an obese competitive speed-eater driven by the State and a newfound love. The tale culminates in the icy, modern present with the speed-eater’s skeleton-thin, socially awkward son who works in taxidermy by day and begrudgingly cares for his bed-ridden, obsessively corpulent father by night until committing the ultimate act of body horror. Along the way, animals are graphically slaughtered then fornicated upon, food is inhaled and vomited up ad nauseam, carnivorous housecats grow to the size of mountain lions, fetuses become key chains and human flesh is artfully eviscerated.
This strange, sweeping history is captured beautifully via camera work that moves with both fluid dexterity and clinical calm. The color palette is gorgeous as well, giving each era a distinct look. Moist, earthy tones root the desolation of the deserted army post; bright, solid primary colors blast Soviet extravagance; and muted monotones cement the indifferent present.
Taxidermia is more than just a freak parade, though. Beneath the grotesqueries lies sharp satire that heightens the harshness, superficiality and absurdity of Soviet life and the emptiness left in its wake — an existence of excess forged as a reaction to oppression. All delivered with a wink, of course.
The bonus features are spare but worthy, including a 45-minute documentary that goes behind the scenes on every level of production, including interviews with Pálfi and writer Lajos Parti Nagy, author of the short stories that formed the film’s foundation. Grade: A