[Movie Review] Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)


France, Italy | Drama, Horror, War | 18+ | Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini | Writers: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergio Citti | Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo Quintavalle | Italian, German, French | 116 minutes

'Goddamn' was the first thing I’ve said after watching Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last work before he got murdered in Rome. Discomforting is an understatement because of the shit-eating, head-scalping, and unrestrained sexual misbehaviors of the Duke (Paolo Bonacelli), the President (Aldo Valetti), the Bishop (Giorgio Cataldi) and the Magistrate (Umberto P. Quintavalle). With no true purpose but pleasing themselves in depravity, the story follows around them toying on all sides with 20 pairs of teenage girls and boys in a solitary palace with murder as consequence for trying to disobey them.

The debaucheries in the movie seemed endless alongside their depravity. Rape and torture became something of a widespread occurrence that it makes us feel at unease and full of disgust toward ourselves. Not because the contents are immoral, but because it was presented with such flamboyance and somewhat prideful attitude. Allow me to cite you an example below.

Between the significant vile acts of the movie that’s divided into four major parts which are ante-inferno, circle of mania, circle of shit and circle of blood (I think we all could comprehend what happened in those four major parts by seeing the name of the parts itself, but I digress) there are prostitutes who are telling their past, disgusting experiences with classical, joyous piano tune whilst dancing here and there. As the prostitutes performed a certain kind of prologue for the subsequent act, the captives were forced to give the Duke and his friends a sexual service.

The movie is so mind-boggling since I couldn’t say more about this narrative except it’s tremendously hard to watch and unbelievably unbearable seeing as 'Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom', for me, didn’t try to tell a story other than fascism is bad. The moral dilemma of the perpetrators is nowhere to be seen and the ones that have been held captives didn’t give much of a fight. Since the journey is lacking in conflict therefore, the story couldn’t hold up quite well. And what we, the viewers, have to presumably get immersed at is the eye-gouging, anal-raping act of the Duke, the Bishop, the Magistrate, and the President.

It seems that the viewers are divided into two factions, the first division is people like me, who detest it completely because of the purposelessness in those wrongdoings and perhaps the inability for me to seek another meaning behind the pasquinade surface. The other group is people who perceive this as a work of art, filled with symbolism and deemed at a masterful display of the depravity of mankind and fascism. See it for yourself and choose your side. Good night and good luck in seeking the deeper meaning.

Review written by: Steven Idries

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