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MCR: Pasolini's Salò (1975)

Article by: Ahmed Shaweesh

"The 120 Days of Sodom" by Pasolini; This famous Italian film, disgusting and horrifying as it is, may be important and necessary in order for us to know about the other side of humanity.
The film, banned since it was made in 1975 to appear in any form in most countries of the world, is based on the story the Marquis de Sade taken from real events in the town of Salo, Italy during the fascist era.
It tells about four wealthy fascists who kidnapped sixteen boys and girls and enjoyed torturing them physically, sexually and psychologically in a remote mansion for 120 days as a form of entertainment. Pier Paolo Pasolini was not only a filmmaker. He was also a poet and a novelist; a Marxist who was expelled from the Communist Party because of his homosexuality. Pasolini was killed shortly before this film was released, apparently because of the film itself being controversial. Most of Pasolini's later films were considered philosophical and required a specific kind of audience with considerable rationality; qualities not necessarily descriptive of his earlier works such as Accattone (1961) and The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964). Salo, a pet name for the movie discussed, apparently was a message from Pasolini, the novelist and poet, to this world before his death. It is a cinematic work overstuffed with evil and horror that strips off the dark side in human beings.

De Sade's novel "120 Days of Sodom" about an Italian town called Salo and the feudal fascists of that era, was considered by readers to be too gloomy to finish or even read without getting into a depressive mood. But Pasolini's movie brings all the visual and psychological shocks in the book's chapters alive in front of you! A villainous but important work of art.
The film, which generally employs long shots of torture, begins by the appearance of the four fascists. Pasolini excellently chose for these roles actors who easily registered features you often see in a mental health facility; sick smiles and stares; faces stuffed with charismatic toughness and hostility.
The film is fraught with decor and accessories that pertain to that era of Italy at the end of the rule of Mussolini. The selection of the palace in which the film events take place is noteworthy in terms of the many rooms, corridors and luxury lounges that are almost devoid of furniture, like a grand theater for a sick entertainment.

This is not Pasolini but it is OK
Pasolini does not hesitate to materialize de Sade's story honestly and clearly with some additions. He wrote the script himself, to make it more sinister and influential. The film is packed with rape scenes and scenes of deviant desires; rape by straight or gay sex. In one scene, one of the girls is forced to eat the feces of one of  the four feudal masters amid their happy laughter at her weeping and her trembling hands. In another scene, verily not for anyone's eyes, victims are stripped nude and whipped in an insane way. In most events, victims are shown naked and chained like dogs in a representation of slavery unprecedented in the history of cinema.
Although the film is difficult to accept, it is thought very important by many critics and writers around the world. Its importance lies in its sincerity toward the events that often had taken place in Italy at that time. The depths of European books and scriptures swarm with lots of real stories about human slavery, Nazism, Fascism and the demeaning of man. Europe as we know it now was not born in a meadow of roses, birds and butterflies. These societies were the result of suffering, injustice and contempt of others; of murder and torture. After World War II, European societies got busy developing the spirit of peace and humanity that has evolved rapidly and spread to the whole world.
Watching such stories as in this Pasolini movie makes us pay attention to the important point that the complex human mind can do anything evil imaginable; can always return to its animal origins despite all cultural and moral delusions.
It is one quality of those stories that make you think too much about the essence of man; his psychological make-up and biological structure. Your mind will review all human disasters since ancient times until our recent times when we begin our day by news of murder, slaughter and torture. Racism and hatred, rape, torture and slaughter, these things are not shocking. These are normal biological traits that will continue with the survival of the human kind. Pier Paolo Pasolini, the poet, novelist and filmmaker, wanted us to keep in mind, by watching this movie, that we are the most deadly and evil of all animals on the face of this planet.

The 120 Days of Sodom 1975, Italy
1:52 min, color
(Based on book by same name by the Marquis de Sade)
Genre: Artfilm; horror movie*
Written & Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Music: Ennio Morricone

The Full movie on YouTube.

* The film was named the 65th scariest film ever made by the Chicago Film Critics Association in 2006.


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