Based on a screenplay by Zsofia Ruttkay, visionary Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi ("Hukkle") has created a grotesque satire that dissects Hungary's nationalist self identity with a pitch-black sense of humor and extended gross-out sequences centered around vomit and sliced flesh. The film is as thematically challenging as it is visually disturbing--perhaps more so for Western audiences. However there are rich layers of subtext for those with strong enough stomachs to discover. Divided into three sections, the story follows three generations of Hungarian men whose lineage, from low-ranking soldier to speed-eating champion to mad scientist/taxidermist, resonates with a certain Eastern European sensibility of twisted ambition tempered by war and social repression. Vendel (Csaba Czene--an actor with a decidedly pronounced hair-lip) is a young soldier stationed at a remote farm where he answers to his tyrannical superior officer Hadnagy (Istvan Gyuricza), when he isn't peeping on the women whom he ostensibly protects while masturbating with the aid of fire, of all things. Vendel impregnates Hadnagy's adulterous wife before meeting a brutal fate that nevertheless allows his male offspring, Kalman Balatonym (Gergo Bischoff), to redefine the sport of speed-eating and win the heart of a woman named Gizi (Adel Stanczel), who shares some of Kalman's prodigious eating skills. The couple's adult son Lajos (Marc Bischoff) is a taxidermist who looks after his now-enormous father since Gizi's departure. Like his father, Lajos harbors unconventional dreams of fame and immortality linked to his physical potential. The shocking climax may not be "life affirming" in any traditional sense of the concept, but it is the most virtuosic piece of Grand Guignol filmmaking you're likely to witness this year.
Rated R. 92 mins. (B-) (Three Stars)
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