Film finds drama in first human donation to penis museum
Conservatives who find the penis an uncomfortable subject for conversation could also mistakenly assume that R-rated documentary “The Final Member” is one more controversy to be avoided.
Instead, drama, emotion and humor are touched upon as Canadian filmmakers Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math introduce this documentary as one normal man’s obsession for scientific acceptance.
That man is Sigurour Hjartson, who devoted almost 40 years to opening, maintaining and operating the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the world’s only museum dedicated specifically to the penis.
The museum was located 30 miles from the Arctic Circle, in the northern fishing village of Husavik, Iceland, when the documentary was photographed.
The filmmakers’ timing was dictated by Hjartson’s hope that the museum’s first human penis would be donated in 2011.
(Hjartson in 2012 left the museum to his son, Hjortur Gisli Sigurosson, who relocated the entire collection — reportedly almost 300 specimens from approximately 100 animal species — to the larger Icelandic city of Reykjavik, where it attracts thousands of visitors each year.)
Hjartson is a scholar, author and former teacher whose interest in penises dates back to his childhood, when he observed a cattle whip made from a bull’s penis.
The so-called museum was, of course, originally only a collection in his home, which grew more rapidly after Hjartson married and also became a parent.
His daughter said, “My dad has been collecting penises for as long as I can remember.”
The idea for an actual “penis museum” probably was first suggested by his wife, simply because she was running out of room. “More and more penises kept coming into the house,” she recalled.
Any temporarily empty shelves in the museum might be filled by art works, examples being large and sometimes clever wood carvings of penises made by Hjartson.
While museum visitors range from the curious to school field trips, the owner grows more frustrated by his inability to complete his collection.
Attractions run the gamut, from the tiny penis bone of a hamster, to the front tip of a blue whale’s penis, some 67 inches in length.
For decades, Hjartson has been unable to display a penis representing man, or [filtered word] sapiens.
His disappointment might be about to end, however, because two men — a much older Icelander, and a patriotic American — both have signed agreements to donate their sexual organs to the Iceland museum.
Admittedly, Hjartson likes the idea of an Icelander being the first. And the Icelander being considered is the already famous and popular Pall Arason. Now in his 90s, he is remembered as an explorer, adventurer and self-professed, life-long womanizer. He’s kept every lady’s name, and fame after death has its appeal.
The American is Tom Mitchell, whose penis reportedly was so memorable that his wife chose to name it, calling it Elmo long before any Sesame Street characters or Muppets arrived.
Mitchell views the museum in Iceland as an opportunity for his Elmo to become the world’s most famous penis; he even designs costumes for it, and wants Elmo to star in comic book spin-offs.
Desperately wanting Elmo to become the museum’s first human penis, Mitchell is willing to donate his penis before his death — just so Arason’s cannot be first.
One of the film’s strangest scenes finds Mitchell conversing calmly with a tattoo artist as the latter creates a patriotic stars-and-stripes motif around the tip of Elmo.
The filmmakers do attempt to humanize Mitchell when, prior to any surgical removals, he receives medical and psychological counseling.
Math and Bekhor cannot disguise the sadness within men willing to give up anything during a race for fame.
Audiences, however, eventually should care more about the drama enveloping Hjartson.
He realizes that he could die before a human donation completes the museum he designed to enable “individuals to undertake serious study into fields of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion.”
Never mind the comic book hero suggested by another.