Film Review – The Final Member

The Final Member

The small town of Husavik, Iceland, lies near the Arctic Circle, has just over 2,000 residents, and is home to what may be the world’s largest collection of penises on display at the Phallological Museum. The Final Member details the drive and determination of the museum’s curator, Siggi Hjartarson, to complete his enormous collection of phalluses from throughout the animal kingdom with the one specimen he is missing: a human being.

Hjartarson’s health is beginning to fail and he realizes that this may be his last chance to realize his dream before he is incapacitated or worse. Enter two possible donors, polar opposites in character, but each quirky and eccentric in their own ways. Pall Arason was Iceland’s most famous explorer, known for opening up the Highlands to tourism and being a notorious womanizer. He’s frail and in his early ‘90s, but feisty and boisterous all the same. He wants to donate his penis after his death, although he worries that, due to his advanced age, it may not be truly representative of its status from its swinging heyday. Arason’s main competition is an American, Tom Mitchell. Mitchell lives in California and is truly a bizarre man. He wants to donate his penis before his death, claiming that it’s of no use to him anymore because of an accident suffered during some particularly energetic sex. He names it Elmo, has an American flag tattooed on the head, and constantly pesters Hjartarson with emails, trying to convince him that he should be the first donor. For all his eccentricity, Mitchell is a vulnerable and sad character, looking for a sense of belonging and immortality in perhaps not the most emotionally and physically healthy way, but who are we to judge?

Hjartarson takes all of this in stride, and displays such sincerity about his collection and his quest for a human member that the audience can’t help but sympathize. Yes, there are some funny moments and some cheeky shots that the filmmakers throw in of the main players on horseback and standing behind a huge penis statue. Who can blame them, as this penis death race is inherently funny and sometimes a little ridiculous? But it’s also, at various times, sad, inspiring, and fascinating, and the directors do an excellent job of creating a gripping narrative that culminates in what is essentially, and appropriately, a happy ending (I won’t spoil who becomes the first donor here). The Final Member essentially tells an age-old story of disappointment and trial leading to triumph – in this case, it just happens to have to do with pickling a severed human penis and putting it on display.

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