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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Final Member review: collectile dysfunction

The Final Member green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
The world’s only penis museum is no joke, but there’s plenty funny (and enlightening, and poignant) in this sweet portrait of a man dedicated to completing his life’s work.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

A penis museum. Officially, The Icelandic Phallological Museum. When directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math made this charming film about its proprietor, Sigurður Hjartarson, the museum was located in the tiny, remote village of Husavik, but it would appear that its stock has risen considerably since The Final Member made its debut at the Hot Docs documentary festival two years ago: the museum now calls Reykjavik home. Which will make it slightly easier for the world to come to this extraordinary place, and meet the man who runs it.

Though Hjartarson admits here that the museum started, in 1974, as a joke, there is nothing in the least bit crude, sniggering, or off-color about this sweet film, just as “there is nothing pornographic there,” Hjartarson assures us about his establishment. (And we can see that there isn’t.) This is a delightful portrait of a marvelous, and marvelously down-to-earth, character in Hjartarson, and of his determination, now that he is getting on in years, to complete his collection before he dies.

You see, the museum has a specimen on display from every mammal that can be found in Iceland… all but one, that is. Hjartarson needs a homo sapiens penis to see his life’s work finished. This is not so easy. While none of the penises on display, from a hamster’s to a whale’s, have come from animals that were killed for the museum or because of the museum, gathering those specimens was nevertheless comparatively simple. With humans, there’s paperwork and — far more trying — personalities to contend with. Hjartarson has two potential human donors lined up: Páll Arason, a legendary Icelandic adventurer and lothario, which would seem to make him doubly a good fit for the collection; and Tom Mitchell, an American who is so inordinately proud of his organ that he sincerely believes it belongs in a museum.

The museum may no longer be a joke, but there’s plenty that’s funny here, from expressions of male vanity to the hilarious phallic souvenirs Hjartarson carves for the museum shop; and plenty enlightening, from discussion of the taboos surrounding Hjartarson’s chosen area of expertise to matters of Icelandic folklore, which dictate a “legal length” for a male member to be appropriately satisfactory to a wife (and which is guiding Hjartarson’s choice for the human penis that will become part of his collection). But this is ultimately a poignant story about one man’s dedication and perseverance in perfecting the unique mark he will leave on the world.

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The Final Member (2014) | directed by Jonah Bekhor, Zach Math
US/Can release: Apr 18 2014
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: rated R for phallic images, sexual references, graphic nudity and brief language
BBFC: rated 15 (images of male genital nudity, moderate sex references)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • LaSargenta

    I couldn’t get my kid to go when we were in Reykjavik ladt summer. Next time.

  • None

    No doubt if this were a Yoni museum, it would be deemed “porn.” I’ve read comments from women about the “Great Wall of Vagina” exhibit, and none of it is positive.

  • This is not a Yoni museum, and it’s nothing like the Great Wall of Vagina. Which is not pornographic.

    Would you care to comment on my review or on the film?

  • None

    The Great Wall of Vagina is not pornographic? Wow, I believe you are the first female I’ve heard say that. Women have said The Wall is downright porn because it involves “that” body part. (Yes, they actually refer to it as “that”).

  • You need to talk to more women. Or just try googling.

  • None

    I have and that’s why I posted what I did. The praise for the vagina wall was from men. I haven’t seen any praise from women – mostly things like “porn”, “pervert” (towards the artist), “vaginas are ugly”, “why would anyone do this”, etc.

  • Bluejay

    You have? You’ve tried Googling? Because this and this are the first two Google results for “great wall of vagina review.” Try harder.

    Also, you’re still not talking about the movie review, or the movie.

  • Danielm80

    And, in fact, if you look at the comment threads about the Great Wall of Vagina on sites like Jezebel, the Huffington Post (not my favorite site), and the official web page for the exhibit, most of the remarks seem to be extremely positive. Admittedly, I haven’t read through all of the hundreds of comments, but a number of people said things like: This is much more realistic and diverse than the images in porn.

    There were some complaints, but most of them said: Technically speaking, it should be called the Great Wall of Vulvas, even if that ruins the pun.

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