Two men square off for phallic immortality in The Final Member

Yes, Iceland has a penis museum. 

The Icelandic Phallological Museum, the name it goes by in more serious circles, houses severed male privates of all shapes, sizes, and species, but up until recently, a human specimen wasn’t among them. The quest of two competing, would-be donors to secure that place for themselves plays out in The Final Member, a new documentary from first-time feature directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math. 

On one side is Páll Arason, a noted Icelandic explorer and (as you learn in the documentary) notorious ladies’ man. Opposite him is Tom Mitchell, a California-dwelling American who is so intent on being first that he’s willing to have his member – named Elmo – chopped off before he expires. 

Two men, four testicles, and a whole lot of balls between them.

Two men, four testicles, and a whole lot of balls between them. The Final Member’s short length – by which we mean running time – turns out to be just right. Bekhor and Math tackle the most relevant bits of this oddball bait-and-tackle story, a not-inconsiderable task given the years-long process the whole affair turned out to be. The co-directors smartly avoid taking their subject too seriously without ever descending into outright mockery – one of this doc’s great successes. 

There’s a touching story at the heart of The Final Member. A couple of them, in fact. Museum founder Sigurður “Siggi” Hjartarson’s quest might seem ridiculous on the surface, but it’s hard not to root for his success when you witness his infectiously sincere love for the museum firsthand. The man loves his penis hobby, and totally not in a weird way. 

Then there’s Mitchell’s own plan to part with his still-living member, which is so bizarre that it threatens to overshadow everything else. Here again, the man’s total commitment keeps you invested. For all that you learn about his various motivating factors – and there are many – you never once doubt his desire to see this through. 

Arason is the odd man out. Unlike Siggi and Mitchell, the 95-year-old Icelander’s story is largely concluded by the time he signs of on bequeathing his privates to the Phallological Museum. He’s just not invested on the same level that Mitchell is, probably because he’s too busy enjoying his twilight years. Or maybe he just sees the whole competition as the silly thing that it is. Arason’s concerns over old age shrinkage – while entertaining – feel flaccid alongside Mitchell’s own attempts to part with his male organs.

Tom Mitchell with diagram in Drafthouse Films’ The Final Member. Courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

Blame reality, not the film; Bekhor and Math do their best to render Arason in the same absurd-yet-endearing shade as they do with the other two subjects, chatting with the elderly Icelander and peering into his lascivious past. But the material just isn’t there. The filmmakers wisely load all of this into the front of the movie, since Mitchell’s story – introduced immediately afterward – quickly captivates.

Stylistically, there’s nothing particularly special about The Final Member. A handful of eye-catching shots and more than a few slice-of-life scenes chronicling Mitchell’s efforts keep things varied, but The Final Member sticks mostly to talking-head interviews and stock footage with voiceover laid on top. Granted, between Iceland’s alien landscape and Siggi’s penis-packed museum, Bekhor and Math have a lot of good B-roll to work with, but overall there’s little visual flash to this relatively dry documentary. 

That’s OK. As it turns out, you don’t really need an eye-catching presentation to keep this absurdist take on a dick-measuring contest entertaining. The oddness of it all counts for everything. The Final Member isn’t likely to rock the foundations of documentary filmmaking, but it accomplishes what it sets out to within the constraints of a short running time. After all, it’s not the size that matters. 


(Media © Drafthouse Films)

Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (December 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Killing Eve'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

‘Kingdom Hearts III’ out in the wild, director asks for support to stop spoilers

Kingdom Hearts III has been leaked, with several copies of the game out in the wild. The game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, responded to the situation, calling for help from gamers to stop spoilers from spreading online.

The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in streaming and eSports in a way that might hint at the future of the industry.

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.

Project Stream testers get to keep a free copy of ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Those who participated in Google's technical test of Project Stream won't be able to access the service to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey after January 15, but they'll get to keep the game on PC anyway.

Newest ‘Destiny 2’ raid already completed by two-person team

The latest raid in Destiny 2: Forsaken is Scourge of the Past, and a two-person team has already managed to complete it. The task took 15 hours of trial-and-error effort before the duo managed to take down the final boss.

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.

Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.

‘Fortnite’ update 7.10 brings a rotating selection of modes big and small

The latest update for Fortnite introduces 14 Days of Fortnite, an event that brings back large and small battle royale modes as well as brand new ones to enjoy during the holiday season.