The Final Member

The Final Member


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

You have to hand it to Drafthouse Films, they know how to pick a venue. And so it was that I came to be at a screening of The Final Member at New York's Museum Of Sex. The member in question is, as you've probably guessed by now, not a person who has joined a club but that part of the male anatomy some might argue has a mind of its own.

What you may not know is that it also has a museum of its own - the Iceland Phallological Museum to be precise, the brainchild of Sigurður “Siggi” Hjartarson who, after starting the collection as a joke when he was given the gift of a bull's penis back in 1974, decided to make it part of his life's work. This is not to say that his focus has lain solely below the belt, as he is also a professor of history, doting family man and staunch advocate for wolves. This is not about snickering at the back of class to Siggi - although debut directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math unearth a wealth of deadpan comedy - but about aiming to remove taboos. "This is something that must be talked about," he insists.

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All of which is what makes this documentary - while perhaps more suited to TV than a big screen - fascinating, although be warned that there are moments of penis dissection that even had the women in the audience I attended crossing their legs in sympathy.

The film catches up with Siggi when, having amassed an example of virtually all the willies the world has to offer, he is in search of the one that will make his collection complete - a human penis. What ensues sounds initially like a cock and bull story, which only goes to show that fact can be stranger than fiction.

In the Icelandic corner, there is ageing lothario Pall Arason, who has become a legend in his own lifetime thanks to a not-so-little black book the contents of which would make Casanova jealous. So it seems rather fitting that he is considering handing over his much-admired manhood for posterity.

He has a rival to be first to donate, however, the much younger American Tom Mitchell, who would like to give over his pride and joy - nicknamed Elmo, which will ensure you never look at a muppet toy in the same way again - while he is still around to see it take pride of place.

That Bekhor and Math - and a surprisingly large number of medical professionals - treat this amputation desire with seriousness is part of the film's recipe for success. The directors present this trio of gents in the same way that Siggi displays his collection, with an honesty and openness that allows us to draw our own conclusions as to their motivations. The quest for a lasting legacy comes in many forms, it seems and however absurd the men may sometimes appeal, they remain sympathetic. With an enjoyable score and an pleasantly brisk runtime, this is more than the sum of its parts.

Reviewed on: 08 May 2014
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The owner of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the world's foremost penis collection, considers which of two volunteers should provide him with a human specimen.

Read more The Final Member reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****

Director: Jonah Bekhor, Zach Math

Starring: Siggi Hjartarson, Pall Arason, Tom Mitchell

Year: 2012

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada, US, Iceland, Italy


Glasgow 2013

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