Saturday, November 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Final Member (2014) ***

R, 75 min.
Directors: Johan Bekhor, Zach Math
Featuring: Sigur∂ur Hjartarson, Tom Mitchell, Páll Arason

“The Final Member” is not a documentary for those with weak stomachs. It really doesn’t try to be gory or gratuitous, but frankly I didn’t ever want to see the body part of its subject in the way we see it here.

“The Final Member” is a documentary about the world’s only penis museum. Sigur∂ur Hjartarson founded the Icelandic Phallological Museum from his own personal collection of penises. It features an amazing variety of penises, from some of the largest phalluses in the world to some of the smallest, but until recently the one species he couldn’t seem to obtain a specimen from was a human. This movie documents his efforts to obtain one.

What I just love about documentary filmmaking is how so many can be made on subjects you’d never imagine. More importantly is how many are made on subjects you’d never imagine you’d find interesting. Not only do I believe I’d never visit a museum of penises, but I didn’t think I’d ever want to watch a movie about one. And yet, here I have, and I did enjoy it.

Now, it’s important to note that my pre-aversion to this subject has nothing to do with a closed mind of any kind or even some denial of basic anatomy. No, I don’t really have a problem with penises. My own life would be arguably more difficult without one. My problem with them in this movie, and most certainly with going to see them in person at this museum is that to display only a penis, it must be severed from its body. Again, I’m not a squeamish person. I can handle a severed limb from time to time, but a penis… that just kind of gets me. They’re pretty ugly to begin with, and when they’ve been removed from their body they tend to resemble some sort of meat that you might not want to eat, but could easily imagine someone else consuming. The thoughts the sight of one conjures up are rather disturbing.

But, despite seeing some rather raw looking fresh penises in the opening shots of this movie, it isn’t like the filmmakers have their audience staring at severed penises for 75 minutes straight. No, most of the movie deals with Sigurd’s search to find a donor. Although he’s spent years trying to obtain one from a cadaver, it turns out it isn’t that difficult to find a couple of living people who are willing to donate the members once they’ve died.

One man is a famous Icelandic personality with quite the Casanova reputation. He’s fairly old and should be able to provide his donation rather soon. The other is an American, who just thinks rather highly of his own penis. He thinks it’s worthy of enshrinement. Well, I guess that goes for both men, but the American is quite a piece of work. When he realizes the old man might beat him to the punch he even devises a way to make the donation before his own death. Yep. He’s willing to castrate himself. What people won’t do for their 15 minutes.

Anyway, for the most part the doc is rather rudimentary. It isn’t flashy, and it could use some tightening up. It was entertaining, though. However, I think I’ve seen enough severed penises for my lifetime. I don’t think I’ll be traveling to Iceland to see the only human penis to be displayed in the world’s only penis museum any time soon.

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