Criterion Collection: Salo Or the 120 Days of [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Customers who bought this item also bought
Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (known in Italian as Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma) provoked howls of outrage and execration on its original release in 1975, and the controversy rages to this day. Until the British Board of Film Classification finally ventured a certificate in 2000, the movie could only be shown at private cinema clubs, and even then in severely mutilated form. The relaxation of the censors' shears allows you to see for yourself what the fuss was about, but be warned--Salò will test the very limits of your endurance. Updating the Marquis de Sade's phantasmagorical novel of the same title from 18th-century France to fascist Italy at the end of World War II, writer-director Pasolini relates a bloodthirsty fable about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Four upper-class libertines gather in an elegant palazzo to inflict the extremes of sexual perversion and cruelty upon a hand-picked collection of young men and women. Meanwhile, three ageing courtesans enflame the proceedings further by spinning tales of monstrous depravity. The most upsetting aspect of the film is the way Pasolini's coldly voyeuristic camera dehumanises the victims into lumps of random flesh. Though you may feel revulsion at the grisly details, you aren't expected to care much about what happens to either master or slave. In one notorious episode, the subjugated youths are forced to eat their own excrement--a scene almost impossible to watch, even if you know the meal was actually composed of chocolate and orange marmalade. (Pasolini mischievously claimed to be satirising our modern culture of junk food.) Salò is the ultimate vision of apocalypse--and as if in confirmation, the director was himself brutally murdered just before its premiere. You can reject the movie as the work of an evil-minded pornographer, but you won't easily forget it. --Peter Matthews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The film attemps to attacks us on our possible desensitized feelings towards violence yet also purposely aims to desensitize us to the film itself and its continous scenes of torture. We witness so much rape , mental and physical torture throughout that it eventually becomes normal to us... of course until the violence and depravity descends onto something much further as it does each chapter.
The film as a whole is an art film aimed to horrify yet somewhat educate us. Of course this is not a typical horror movie with masked men or jumpscares , we face our villians from the outset and the horror is pure and real and almost feels non fictional as if we are viewing something real.
The last quarter in which various rule breakers are tortured and murdered is the section of the film which is most recognisable to the horror genre with the brutal violence and realistic gore effects and it is definetly the most harrowing and effective part of the movie. As the victims are tortured and murdered each one of the fascist rulers take turn as voyer and watches the orgy of horror and we watch with him... The film essentially equates our viewing of this film to their viewing of the executions as they are entertained by the violence and we ourselves are watching this for entertainment just as they are.
Salo offers something conventional horror films do not which is pure real horror. It also delivers a strong and open message which you may recieve differently from others but no matter what this film will leave an impression on you.
It's very easy to see why Salo has kicked up so much hostility. It's undoubtedly 'repulsive, outrageous and abhorrent' as Malaysia's censorship board found it. Based on The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, but updated to the Salo Republic of the last year of World War II, it charts the story of 4 rich Fascist libertines who kidnap 18 boys and girls, whisking them off to a country house where the most outrageously depraved sexual acts are perpetrated on them for the rich enjoyment of their masters. The narrative structure is lifted from Dante's Inferno and there are 4 parts to the film - the Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of S*** and the Circle of Blood. The Anteinferno sees the 4 libertines sign an agreement to what they are about to do, they marry each others' daughters, recruit 4 studs (or 'guards') who are chosen because they have large penises, personally select the 18 victims (9 boys, 9 girls) and then convene at the country house chosen for their debauchery. There they are met by 4 middle-aged collaborating prostitutes who are hired to tell filthy erotic stories in a salon of the house. The rules are read out to all and the debauchery begins. The Circle of Mania incorporates many of Sade's stories taken from the book which are read while the masters listen and enjoy the young bodies that surround them. Here no distinction is made between heterosexuality and homosexuality, vaginal intercourse and anal intercourse being freely interchangeable. Particularly nasty are scenes of rape and victims forced to behave as dogs tied to leashes as they eat out of dog bowls. One girl is forced to eat bread with nails which have been deliberately planted within. One of the libertines smiles as the girl's mouth flows with blood. The Circle of S*** sees the obscenity escalate even further with stories focusing on defecation and coprophagia. One of the libertines defecates in front of everyone and forces a girl to eat his feces. The victims are forbidden to defecate except when required and later everyone feasts on a giant plate of feces which has been collected from the bowels of everyone present. The names of those who disobey the rules are taken in a black book and marked down for later punishment. One girl is slated for invoking the name of God, another for daring to wipe his backside after defecating. The film assumes the form of Sade's book in its compendious cataloging of depravity and it never lets up. The final Circle of Blood forms the suitably sickening finale with the victims who have transgressed the rules being rounded up in a courtyard and then tortured and killed for the delectation of the libertines who both take part in the depravities and observe from afar, Pasolini controversially inviting us to share in their sick voyeurism. One boy is scalped, another's eye is gouged out. One girl is anally raped immediately before being hanged. Nipples are burned, breasts are branded, tongues and penises are cut off and two young boys (who have watched and taken part in much of the preceding depravity) dance a sweet little waltz. Yes, it's safe to say this is probably cinema's most depraved film this side of snuff. So why do acknowledged artists such as Martin Scorsese and Michael Haneke insist Salo is a masterful statement which should be seen?
The main reason for Salo's high regard lies in the success with which its political allegory is rendered. The film's uncompromising depiction of sexual depravity had never been seen in the cinema before and has never been seen since. And yet the depravity is harnessed by Pasolini to make a political statement which is arguably profound and important as a cautionary warning. Before everything else I think it should be said that the subject of Salo is not sex. The subject is Fascism. Pasolini hated Fascism and made his feelings about it known in the strongest possible terms in this film. The film is obscene because Fascism itself is obscene. The film is an allegory which plays out on two different levels. The first is the obvious one of the Fascism of those 18 months towards the end of World War II when the Nazis set up a puppet Fascist state in Salo, a small town on the shore of Lake Garda. It was the last place Mussolini held power. The period of the Salo Republic was a time of unprecedented horror during which 72,000 people were killed, 40,000 were mutilated and another 40,000 were sent on to German concentration camps. The truck with the victims at the beginning of the film passes through the infamous town of Marzabotto, a place where 2,000 inhabitants were rounded up and massacred by 18 year old boy collaborators. Pasolini was personally affected by this horror. He spent part of his childhood growing up in the area, his brother had been killed during partisan skirmishing during the last days of the war, and his father (who he hated) had been a Fascist in the early days, decorated for having saved Mussolini's life. Add Pasolini's Communist convictions into the mix and we have good reasons for his desire to make a strong anti-Fascist statement. It's spelled out clearly at the outset that the film's 4 Fascist libertines represent the 4 sides of the Salo Republic power structure - there is the Duke (Paolo Bonacelli) representing the aristocracy, the Bishop (Giorgio Cataldi) representing religion, the Magistrate (Umberto P. Quintavalle) representing the Law and the President (Aldo Valleti) representing the political infrastructure. The agreement they sign at the start of the film represents the constitution, the rules of which are read out to the victims (representing the Italian people living in the Republic) and enforced by the soldiers and prostitutes (representing all Fascist collaborators). Fascism in Salo for Pasolini is a huge allegorical fantasy of power and male domination in which the human body is turned into an object to be exploited, hurt and destroyed. For the director, exploitation and degradation of the human body was at the heart of Fascism so that sexual brutality is synonymous with political brutality.
The second level of the allegory is more controversial in that it focuses on what Pasolini saw as the Fascism of the day (in 1975). In interview he said, "I hate with particular vehemency the current power, the power of 1975, which is a power that manipulates bodies in a horrible way; a manipulation that has nothing to envy to that performed by Himmler or Hitler". We must remember that Pasolini made his first film when he was in his 40s and that he was as famed a poet, a novelist, an intellectual, a philosopher and a journalist as he was a filmmaker when he came to make Salo. He was a controversial public figure who had a regular newspaper column in the Corriere della sera which he used to attack the government of the day calling for the arrest and trial of all the major Italian Christian Democrat politicians for their part in what he saw as Italy's degradation thanks to capitalist materialism, the accepting of new false material values that were debasing Italy's beloved traditions and the ever-closer relationship with future scion of globalization, the USA. Pasolini had naively thought that the human body was the only site to have escaped domination by consumer capitalism and made his Trilogy of Life (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights) as a celebration of human sexuality. However, the commercial success of these films (because of their sex and nudity) and the cheap copies that came out ripping them off made him realize that not even the body was exempt from this exploitation and Salo is an admittance that he had been wrong. Therefore the second part of the allegory in Salo focuses on the Fascism of the 70s for which bodies were the mere sites for the inarrestible imposition of power for Power's own anarchy. The s*** that the victims are forced to sit in and eat is the food of consumer capitalism which Pasolini railed against daily in the Press. Those of us not familiar with Italian history of the 70s probably won't get this part of the allegory as there are no direct references in the film to 1975, but of course everyone at the time of the film's release had no doubt that Pasolini was attacking the Fascism of the day as much as the Fascism of the 1940s. This enraged Pasolini's already numerous enemies and is the source of all the rumors that his brutal murder just after Salo's completion was in fact a conspiracy plot.
An allegory on Fascism, Salo is a serious-minded film and the way Pasolini treats the characters and the mise-en-scene supports this very closely. Brechtian alienation had already played a part in Pasolini's earlier films like Teorema (1968) and Porcile (1969) and in Salo it is no different. All characters are held at arm's length so that we never get to know them or feel for them. This goes for the victims as well as the perpetrators. We are removed from direct contact with personality and instead have political tableaux in which temperaments and ideologies are played out through characters whose conflicts are determined by and whose emotions are filtered through the filmmaker's analysis of the subject. This forces us to think through the links Pasolini has presented for us to make narrative sense for ourselves. The director showers us with cultural references throughout the film in a very carefully arranged mise-en-scene. The country house chosen for the debauchery is furnished in Bauhaus style and is covered in references to paintings by artists of this persuasion. On the walls we can see Leger, Feininger, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Mack and artists of the Dada movement. In the opening credits Pasolini directly lists a bibliography of 4 famous writers who have at some stage supported Sade's philosophical project - Roland Barthes, Maurice Blanchot, Simone De Beauvoir, Pierre Klossowski and Philippe Sollers. Some of these are quoted in the screenplay mainly by the libertines in addition to Nietzsche, Ezra Pound and Gottfried Benn. On the soundtrack we hear dance music associated with the Fascist period along with fascist anthems (sung at dinner-time) and even Carl Orff whose Carmina Burana is used during the final bloodbath - Orff was a Nazi who stayed in Germany throughout the war. To cap everything off we have bursts of Hitler speeches on the radio and the sound of bombers flying overhead (first heard just as the Circle of S*** commences) to warn us that the Salo Republic is about to come to an end. This bombardment of cultural references underlines repeatedly that we are looking at an allegory, distancing us all the time from any kind of emotional involvement with the characters. This distancing is important because we are never allowed to engage with or empathize with any of the characters as we are constantly invited to do in the average porno film or routinely violent action movie coming out of Hollywood. Like Michael Haneke (I'm thinking especially of Funny Games) Pasolini finds the routine commercialization of sex and violence more disgusting and more disturbing than anything he puts before us in this film.
Finally I should address the question of Salo's supposedly pornographic content. I'm sorry but I fail to see it. Salo is a turn-off film, not a turn-on film. Pasolini is very careful never to dwell on human bodies coupling in any way that might be called attractive. When characters do attempt warmth they are immediately screamed at by the libertines and when one guard is caught making love to a servant girl he is killed instantly. All warm humanity is stripped away here in a film which Pasolini makes so clear is a visual depiction of Fascism. As such it should be despised. It's OK to despise Salo. That's exactly the reaction Pasolini wants from the audience, and as nauseating and as uncomfortable as watching it is, you have to admire the bravery and the sheer honesty of his nihilistic vision. There really is nothing else quite like it.
As others have mentioned, it is extremely difficult to recommend it or rate it. I have tried to base my rating therefore on the relative importance of the right of film makers to produce art. Many viewers may dislike or even loathe this film, but that should not stop producers from having the right to make such films. There is a serious message, it is not gratuitous - if you consider the film as a whole.
But be warned. This is a very visceral film. Worthwhile, but disturbing nonetheless - it may stick with you for longer than you want.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
If you take a cursory look through the one star reviews you will see this film variously...Read more
Look for similar items by category