My last installment was a nice little horror comedy musical about zombies. In order to show the breadth of the genre, I decided to go as far as possible from it. So, I thought this weird little Hungarian body horror film about there generations of men trying to find their place in the world.
SPOILERS! Not that they matter in this kind of a movie.
Also, be careful with this one. It is body horror and as such it does contain things you might not be able to forget soon, no matter how much you’d like to. On the other hand, if you can take it, this is kind of a funny movie.
I’m not going to try to remember the names of these characters, so let’s just call him Grandpa, Dad and Son for the sake of simplicity.
Our first generation is a soldier, who is basically a personal servant to an officer in some god-forsaken place, where the officer lives with his family. Grandpa is quite thirsty in the sense we use the word today, but obviously he doesn’t have many opportunities to quench it in his situation. So, he spies on the female members of his superiors family (his daughters are adults, so there aren’t that kind of problems) and has weirdly sexually loaded fantasies. He does whatever he can to find some sort of sexual satisfaction, influding playing with fire, smelling bathwater and, finally, having sex with a pig carcass, which gets him executed. But not before he managed to impregnate his superiors wife (in quite an explicit sex scene).
The Dad, on the other hand, is a competitive eater. He is in love with a fellow eater from the female division, but he also has competition, which makes this kind of a weird romantic story, which just happens to have the most disgusting eating scenes I’ve seen. At one point the couple try to eat 20 kilos of caviar in 20 minutes in honor of the 20th anniversary of the countries “liberation”.
Finally, the Son is a taxidermist. He is socially awkward and lonely, while still living with his Dad, who is still all about competitive eating, even though he has eaten himself into obscene obesity and can no longer move. Since the Dad can no longer do anything else, he is raising cats as competitive eaters in his weird delusions his Son is forced to participate in. One day, as the Son returns from his work, he finds that the cats have found their way out of their cages and have killed the Dad. This impels the Son to taxidermy his Dad and construct a complicated machine to do the same to himself (although he can’t taxidermy his head and one of his hands, so the machine just cuts them off as the final step). Finally, a customer of the Son finds these two and puts them into a museum as works of his own.
Hungary is secretly a great source of movies. I mean, we have Kontroll, On Body and Soul, Son of Saul, White God and the works of the great Bela Tarr (and his wife, Ágnes Hranitzky, who has worked on many of his movies, often as a co-director). I’ve probably also missed quite a lot of great movies, as it’s hard to know what’s going on in most countries in terms of movies, because American movies take up so much of the real estate in terms of visibility. Still, these weird little gems keep creeping up.
I’m somewhat familiar with the body horror genre, but I can’t claim to be an expert. In my experience, the horror comes from one of three different places: transhumanism gone wrong, your body feeling alien and some outside force tinkering with your body. This movie doesn’t really touch these categories, but instead chooses to focus on how disgusting and self-destructive we are as a species. Grandpa burns himself to feel something, Dad keeps using the very thing that is supposed to nourish us to damage himself and finally the Son takes this all to a logical conclusion through suicide. These are not the beautiful people we see in Hollywood movies either. Grandpa has a scar on his lip, Dad is very fat when we first meet him as an adult and extremely obese when he dies and Son is mostly just unkempt.
At the same time, these grotesque things fascinate us. The usual comparison is looking at car crashes, but you could say the same for things like reality shows. The movie comments on itself on this. We see on-lookers be disgusted by the competitive eating (which is depicted in a way that makes it look much worse than it really is), but they can’t turn away. The same applies to the Son. His body, which he wasn’t happy with, gets immortalized in a museum despite looking like a mockery of a Renaissance statue (he actually doesn’t have a bad body, but understandably his body image might not be quite realistic with his Dad around).
And yet, these are still just people. We are perverted, we are fat, we eat shitty things and we have social anxieties. Despite certain extremeties, this is in many ways more true to life than most movies. For better or worse, this is what humanity is like.
After all this, it might be hard to see this as funny, but it is. Or at least can be. Of course, this requires the ability to handle this kind of absurdity. I’m not suggesting you try to immerse yourself in all sorts of perverse material to achieve this, but to get this movie that would probably be required.