The Final Member

The Final Member


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Now in his seventies, Siggi Hjartarson has spent his life collecting penises. There's nothing pornographic about it, he explains. It started with a joke and became a hobby. He's a former teacher and fascinated by education, by challenging taboos to spread knowledge. Now curator of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, he has an impressive collection with specimens from dozens of different species - the two millimetre member of a harvest mouse beside the three foot penis of a sperm whale. Just one thing is missing. A human specimen.

Siggi's search for a human specimen has been more difficult than you might imagine. Men quite happy to donate their hearts on death are particular about going to the grave with their genitals intact. The specimen needs to be over a certain length and needs to be properly certified. Just two men seem like likely prospects. One is legendary Icelandic explorer and womaniser Pall Arason, now in his nineties and keen to leave something that people can remember him by. The other is Californian Tom Mitchell, who has named his penis Elmo, dresses it up in comedy costumes and is so intent on securing its lasting fame that he is considering having it removed whilst still alive.

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This kind of documentary might seem like a one-trick pony, but its characters are so intriguing that it never drags. Sensitive viewers should be aware that it contains scenes of penile dissection liable to have some crossing their legs throughout, but Siggi's approach is one of pure academic enthusiasm, balanced by a humour that has inspired him to carve a variety of curious phallic objects for his museum shop. Arason is frail and a little withdrawn but stories of his past remain intriguing. Mitchell, meanwhile, seems to have enough issues for his own mini-series. His obsession with Elmo extends to creating comic books that present the severed member as a superhero. He muses on his hope that amputation will enable him to escape the destructive power of women. When a doctor patiently explains to him that she's happy to modify genitals for transgender people but she won't just cut off healthy tissue, he comes up with an elaborate story of past injury that we never see verified. He bombards Siggi with email and is at a loss when this seems to work against him.

Alongside these human stories, Siggi has the chance to pursue his educational mission, dropping in assorted phallus facts and explaining the process of preserving tissue in formaldehyde. We also get to see something of Iceland and meet the local wildlife.

Observant, informative and very funny, The Final Member is worth watching for far more than the smirk factor. Like all the best documentaries, it will leave you looking at familiar things in a whole different way.

Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2013
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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:

Amber Wilkinson ***1/2

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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