Hot Docs 2012: The Final Member

Sigurdur Hjartarson owns a lot of penises. A lot a lot of penises. Scores of penises. So many, in fact, that he runs a whole penis museum: the Icelandic Phallogical Museum. There are bull penises, seal penises, a tiny little hamster penis and a giant sperm whale penis. Hjartarson claims to have a penis from every species of mammal except one: homo sapiens.

His quest to find a human specimen is the central story of The Final Member. He has two volunteers. One is a famous womanizing Icleandic explorer. But he's an old man now; his penis has shriveled it's not quite what it once was. There's a very good chance that he'll take back his offer before he dies, too embarrassed to put his once legendary manhood on display. The other is an American who has promised to cut his penis off even before he dies. This, he figures, will help him fulfill his exhibitionist desires in a socially acceptable way. He goes as far as getting the stars and stripes tattooed onto the head for patriotic good measure. But he, I'm sure you'll be surprised to learn, seems a little bit eccentric. And the ethical concerns of the penis-ectomy could pose some problems.

It's obviously an offbeat story, and The Final Member has plenty of laughs. The direction plays up them up, too, with shots like the one pictured above and a whimsically Tim Burton-ish score. But the themes lurking beneath the surface are just about as big as they get. Each of the three aging men is driven by the existential need to leave something of value behind when they die. And all the penis-related hilarity raises plenty of questions about societal taboos. The audience isn't just left laughing, but also wondering why they think it's so funny.

- Adam Bunch

Find all of our coverage of Hot Docs 2012 here. 

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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