Extreme subjects tackled in the documentary world can certainly make an impression. Whether it’s a candid look into the human fascination with guns or an examination of man/horse romantic relations, such films can leave a lasting impact. The new doc "The Final Member," which features a rare glimpse into the penis preservation Icelandic Phallological Museum, is no exception in creating such a lingering effect - though it’s not one audiences may expect.
Sigurður "Siggi" Hjartarson is a man who has dedicated his life to painstakingly preserving and displaying male genitalia from all forms of life. From large Sperm Whales to small hamsters, Siggi has amassed an impressive collection that is like no other. But in his old age there is still one specimen he has yet to acquire, a phallic sample he is dedicated to getting to finally make his collection complete. A human penis. Enter Páll Arason and Tom Mitchell, two gents who find themselves in competition to be the first to donate their equipment in the name of education and realize it’s much more complicated then they anticipated.
Yes, the controversial subject matter of "The Final Member" will draw folks (and repel others!) to seek out the secrets within, but it’s the moving human emotion here that truly sticks out. (Little pun there!) As a man dedicated to a passion of teaching a truly beyond the norm subject, museum curator Siggi is almost as fascinating as the items he has so non-apologetically on display and his journey here to complete his unusual collection is a surprisingly powerful one. This isn’t a guy who’s a smut peddler or a pervert with a love of all things phallic, but merely a humble scholar of a different kind dedicated to educating all those who care to listen. The actual humor of the piece comes instead from his two would be donators Páll and Tom, both of whom seem to be interested in parting with their parts for very different reasons – Páll to pay homage to his legacy of ladies and Tom for the fortune and glory of it all. (Tom even goes so far as to call his own phallus Elmo!) You have to hand it to filmmakers Jonah Bekhor & Zach Math, who have essentially taken what could have been a salacious story and built a complex tale that doesn’t fail to surprise.
Some may be put off by the story boldness of such an unusual yarn, but I say a good doc can come in all shapes and sizes. Small or large, animal or human, there’s legitimate lessons in life to be learned even from a longfellow.