live. death. freedom.

salò or the 120 days of sodom – yes, the infamous movie by pier paolo pasolini.

saloto get it out of the way first: yes, it is a violent and partly rather gross movie, referring to certain acts. but it has been a long time since 1975, tarantino is mainstream, hardcore porn is easily acessible on the net, and c.s.i. is the favourite series of many.

so for me it appears rather strange that the police, respectively the politicians still dare to raid places showing this movie in public (and yes, there is also no german edition of that movie) – raiding the place for showing that movie, while just a block away movies like seven, reservoir dogs, saw, hostel, and so on are sold in numerous shops… that might be due to the combination of sex and violence in salò, and that the movie does not operate in any subcultural domaine, and that it is showing violence neiter stylized, nor glamourous – but i suspect it basically has to do that it is one of these movies that everybody has an opinion on, but hardly anybody watched.

i do recommend to watch it. it is an amazingly beautiful movie, visually. it is an extremly well made movie, too. and although it employs different strategies to build an emotional and visual distance, it is also a remarkably angry movie. and it is worlds apart from most contemporary movies celebrating violence in a very slick way.

pasolini took de sade and made his account of total sadism a political story. very directly through the titel: salò is the name of the second fascist repulic in italy, and the sadists are high ranking fascists. so while marquis de sade is rather some kind of intellectual experiment, distanced also through a setting in a time long gone, pasolini’s movie makes a direct reference to reality. to atrocities that did happen – atrocities that have gone way beyond what is shown in this movie. atrocities that are well documented, atrocities that still happen today here and there – a connection that makes this movie indeed rather severe. therfore the real perversion lies in trying to still ban this movie – but not spending any amount of energy to ban what the movie talks about happening.

and yes, this is where the anger of the movie is coming from: the onlookers. the opportunists, the ones participating, the ones not interfering. the movie is very explicit in denouncing this, and this is the moral question: why do we look on? just look on? this certainly has been the big question in europe after world war II, a question some people worked hard on, a question that is being avoided until today by others, by people screaming decadence and proclaim the death of society if there is a gay pride, or this movie shown, but did not even utter a whisper while people were tortured, abused, killed, right in front of their eyes – and even are up to today apologetic of what happened in these years. evil or just amazingly stupid? i don’t know.

the movie is structured in circles, reminding of the circles in dante’s hell, describing the descent into madness. but how is such madness possible? through a system that allows this: totalitarian, demanding subordination, and apparatus that delegates all responsability through this subordination everything into a system (“i just followed orders”). and then it hit me during seeing this movie: totalitarian, like softer versions of strictly hierarchical structured systems make you free. there is total freedom through absence of responsability. and yes, there is quite a lot of talking in this movie, and i’ve seen it in italian, and i’m sure i missed quite a bit, but i did not miss that sentence, when one of sadists is proclaiming that the fascists are the real anarchists. and yes, in a way it is true: you can be free, free of all responsability, just allow the system to take over all responsability for you and for the others – and if somebody else does not want that kind of freedom, you are a) certainly not responsible for this person, and b) this person actually endangers your freedom. whereas the political idea of anarchy dreams of a structural anarchy – something that would demand a lot of responsability from everyone – not only for himself, but also for everybody around him.

the problem with being free in a totalitarian system just seems to be that in these kind of systems freedom is only used in an amazingly stupid way. in the movie, especially in the sexually scenes, the brutality comes from the stupidity. one has all these possibilities and what you come up with is this? on the other hand it amplifies the horror for me: being in the hands of dumb people, that are able to delegate their responsability to a system and come up with really dumb , evil shit. yeah, the association to abu graib is an obvious one.

yes, also this is a quality of the pasolini’s movie: it shows sadistic violence not as an expression of a psychotic, deranged, but intelligent and fascinating mind: it shows that sadism is essentially stupid and unimaginative. and no, pasolini does not make it that easy: there are beautiful boys and girls, and the studs are obviously sexy (and obviously pasolini’s type). it’s a movie that shows us that there are circumstances that enables evil behaviour, circumstances that have something to do with our society and our behaviour. but it does also show us that it might be not possible to draw such clear lines as we wish, that there are desires running through that might undermine our righteous stance.

so yes, i really do recommend this movie. just look at it…

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