Published Jan 23, 2014The daughter of Icelandic Phallological Museum curator Sigurour Hjartarson says that her father has been collecting penises for as long as she can remember. His wife recalls how she was glad to have a lot more space once he opened the museum and moved all of those penises out of the house. A reminder of how the best documentaries are capable of introducing us to people and places to which we might never otherwise be exposed, The Final Member is a remarkable and funny examination of not just one but two people who can't seem get their minds off penises.
It all started with the acquisition of a bull penis for Hjartarson, and he has since spent his life amassing an impressive assembly of samples from across the animal kingdom. An early sequence in which he exuberantly takes the viewer on a tour of the museum shows the contrast between the gargantuan mass being lugged around by the sperm whale (the hefty penis on display is actually only a third of its full length) and the unfortunately endowed hamster (a disappointing 2 millimetres). The only specimen that he desperately needs to complete his collection is a human penis.
While Icelandic adventurer and legendary lothario Pall Arason has pledged his penis to the museum upon his death, the wait is especially excruciating for Hjartarson because his health is failing. There are also concerns that Arason's shrinking penis may not be of "legal length," which is apparently five inches according to the stipulations of a frustrated wife in Icelandic folklore. This is where American Tom Mitchell enters, who is so committed to having his penis (which he has named Elmo) become the first one in the museum that he is willing to part with it while he is still alive.
Mitchell is the other man who seems abnormally preoccupied with penises, and specifically his own, and emerges as perhaps an even more fascinating personality. While Hjartarson says he would happily accept Mitchell's donation to the museum, he becomes increasingly scared off by Mitchell's grand plans for displaying Elmo, which include a custom-made case and an accompanying comic book in which his hovering penis glides around fighting crime and saving lives. In one scene, we see Mitchell having the stars and stripes of the American flag tattooed on the head of his penis. He assures the man with the needle that his artwork will be around for thousands of years. The poor guy looks less than enthused.
While it would have been easy for the film to simply laugh at Mitchell, it delves deeper into the psyche man who has become so sick of being heartbroken that he sincerely believes he would be better off without a penis at this point, especially if it means a little bit of fame and recognition for Elmo. Similarly, the way Hjartarson has devoted so much time to collecting penises may seem a little odd at first, but this ongoing commitment he shows to his passion eventually becomes unexpectedly moving.
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