Monday, July 11, 2011
This is an unwatcheable film, in it's unrestrained outpouring of scatological, sado-masochistic and sexual perversion culminating in torture and sadistically engineered murders. This is a true holocaust film and the metaphors are hideously apt. It made me think at once of Claude Lanzmann's unforgettable Shoah. It is based on Marquis de Sade's well known novel, 120 Days of Sodom.
Salo is a town in Italy which was the headquarters of a short lived Nazi-Fascist puppet regime from 1943-45. De Sade's seventeenth century narrative is transported in time and place to Salo in 1944 and the perpetrators are four individuals in positions of power who use the opportunity offered by the impending defeat to enact their fantasies on a group of chosen young men and women. Also, it is Pasolini's last film, since he was murdered soon after it's release, further magnifying it's ill fame. However no one can deny that Pasolini was a great artist, and the film is far from a purposeless exercise to shock for the sake of shocking.
The film is a powerful metaphor for the blinding of entire nations, specifically narrowed on the transient fascist regime in the town of Salo. Ordinary means would not be commensurate to express the realities that transpired, and the director's choice of using the French novel as a metaphor is impeccable. The subject of the holocaust hardly admits of decorous language or sentimental finery of images. This film is as crude, shrill and agonized as its subject demands. Even Dante's Inferno belongs to gentler times when things like the Holocaust were beyond the ken. The squalor of the soul which Salo reveals is a reality we have yet to learn to face. This is no mad dream but seldom visited chambers of the human soul. It calls for a strong stomach.
A Mad Dream, an essay by Pasolini