Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom is the story of a world set in 1944 Nazi-Fascist Italy where four libertines capture a group of teenagers as they subject to horrific forms of torture as it’s told in four different segments. Directed Pier Paolo Pasolini and screenplay by Pasolini and Sergio Citti, the film is considered one of the controversial and obscene scene films of its time as Pasolini interprets de Sade’s 18th century novel into a dark period in Italy in what would be Pasolini’s final film. Starring Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto P. Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti, Caterina Boratto, Elsa de Giorgi, Helene Surgere, and Sonia Saviange. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom is an absolutely disgusting, obscene, and tremendously powerful from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Set in a Nazi-Fascist controlled region in Northern Italy known as Salo, the film revolve around four leaders of the land who conspire to kidnap a large group of teenagers and subject them to extreme measures of torture. Told in four chapters as it’s based on the different stories of Marquis de Sade, it’s a film that explores a dark world where four men with their army and a small band of rich whore torment the young in their own sick and demented way. Much of which involves forms of torture that is physical, emotional, and mental to the point that the victims ponder if God will save them. The film’s screenplay uses these different stories of de Sade as well as Dante’s Divine Comedy as ideas for what Pier Paolo Pasolini and co-writer Sergio Citti are creating to play into the idea of what these Fascists were doing during this dark period in Italian history.

Controlling this world of sodomy, debauchery, and torment are these four libertines who are part of the Italian Social Republic who come up with an idea to torment their own daughters as well as eighteen teenagers for their own game of sodomy. Four additional teenage boys become recruited as guards while there’s four men also on board as studs. Adding to the world of torment are a trio of aging prostitutes who tell elaborate stories of torture to play into the mind games of their victims. During the stories’ progression, the forms of torture would increase into elements where sick would be understating it. In fact, it’s far more insane as the victims are forced to obey certain laws for their own survival. Eventually to the point where these elements of torment would have the victims do whatever to survive as some of them just want to die.

Pasolini’s direction is quite entrancing for the way he presents the film as it’s largely shot in this lavish palace in Northern Italy where it feels like a place that is idyllic. The film starts off in this very enchanting location that has the look of a paradise but once the film moves towards rural locations, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as paradise. What Pasolini shows is this major schism in the social classes where the wealthy and those of power run things while the poor are completely disenfranchised from all of the things the rich has. Instead, they’re pawns in this world of Nazi-Fascist Italy where the young people of the land have no choice but to be victims. Pasolini’s usage of wide shots and slow pans play into this extravagant world that is full of beauty but it’s also discomforting due to the people that live there. Each segment begins with an aging prostitute telling a story that is often accompanied to music as they’re dressed in glamorous clothing as they tell these stories in style. Pasolini’s compositions are quite mesmerizing in the way he puts actors into a frame whether it’s in a close-up, a medium shot, or a wide shot while he does go into great extremes to portray these moments of torture.

Much of it involves very graphic depictions of sex and violence where rape is very common in this palace as these Fascist libertines take pleasure into raping young men and women. The violence is also quite gruesome where it’s not just in the idea of gunplay but also in the forms of torture where it plays into how Fascists conduct their business and do it with great extremes. Among the forms of torture that will definitely be a major test for audiences involve scenes where characters are forced to eat shit. Yes, a feast of feces, excrement, turds, poo-poo, ca-ca is among the form of torture where Pasolini definitely goes all-out to play into this crazed and demented world where these four men get off on all of these things. Overall, Pasolini creates a very unsettling, visceral, and riveting film about life in the Italian Social Republic during World War II.

Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of colors and natural lights for the exterior scenes to way interiors are lit in some scenes as well as setting moods for the scenes involving the prostitutes telling stories. Editor Nino Baragli does amazing work in the editing as it‘s very straightforward while it has some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the action and sense of terror that looms in the film. Production designer Dante Ferretti and set decorator Osvaldo Desideri does incredible work with the set design from the look of the main hall where the prostitute tell their stories as well as some of the rooms where the rich live to the dreary conditions of the rooms the victims have to live in.

Costume designer Danilo Donati does fantastic work with the costumes from the lavish clothes that the prostitutes wear to the uniforms the guards wear and other stylish clothes the libertines wear throughout the film. The sound work of Giorgio Loviscek and Domenico Pasquadibisceglie is superb for the atmosphere of the locations as well as how music is played in some of those scenes along with the sounds of violence. Musical coordinator Ennio Morricone does phenomenal work with assembling the pieces of music in the film as it features an array of classical pieces by Frederic Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Carl Orff plus an instrumental from the 1940s that is conducted by Morricone to play into that dark period of time.

The film’s incredible cast as it features a massive ensemble as many of the talents who play the young victims do great work in displaying the sense of torment and abuse they would endure. Other notable small roles include Ines Pellegrini as a slave girl, Ezio Manni as a collaborator who aids the libertines in the abuse, and Sonia Saviange as the pianist who often accompanies music to the stories of the prostitutes. Helene Sugere and Elsa De Giorgi are excellent in their respective roles as Signora Vaccari and Signora Maggi as two women who tell different stories about their encounters with men. Caterina Boratto is fantastic as Signora Catelli as this lively prostitute who tells the final story as she torments the young victims with these stories that are an absolute disconnect with their own lives.

Aldo Valetti is superb as the President who is this scrawny man that seems to enjoy penetrating anyone he comes across while Umberto Q. Quintavalle is terrific as the Magistrate who is an absolute sadist that takes pleasure in abusing others. Giorgio Cataldi is brilliant as the Bishop who is just as sadistic as the Magistrate as he often writes names down for people to punish as he also wears strange robes during a weird wedding ceremony. Finally, there’s Paolo Bonacelli in an amazing performance as the Duke who leads the ritual of debauchery as it’s a very scary performance as he is extremely chauvinistic and abusive as well as being very violent where it’s really a performance that makes Bonacelli someone will love to hate.

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom is a remarkable yet obscene film from Pier Paolo Pasolini. Armed with a great cast and a terrifying premise, this is a film that definitely isn’t for everyone where it makes no qualms in bring discomfort to its audience over its depiction of torture and sodomy. Even as Pasolini isn’t afraid to push buttons and see how much people can take into the extremities of his final film. In the end, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom is a phenomenal yet extremely fucked-up film from the late Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Pier Paolo Pasolini Films: (Accattone) - (La Rabbia) - Mamma Roma - (Location Hunting in Palestine) - (The Gospel According to Matthew) - (Love Meetings) - (The Hawks and the Sparrows) - The Witches (1967 film)- The Earth Seen from the Moon - (Oedipus Rex) - Teorema - (Porcile) - (Medea (1969 film)) - (Appunti per un film sull’India) - (Notes Towards an African Orestes) - The Decameron (1971 film) - The Canterbury Tales - Arabian Nights

© thevoid99 2014


Brittani Burnham said...

I think I made it through about 15 minutes of this and stopped. Definitely not for me.

Anonymous said...

One of these days I'll see this. It scares me. I've heard so many...things about this movie. I really need to be in the right frame of mind to tackle this one.

Wendell Ottley said...

I've not seen this, but I have read lots of reviews for it. I will say that yours is the first positive one I've come across. I go back and forth about whether or not I'll ever subject myself to such an extreme movie. Kudos to you for doing so.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani Burnham-The first 20 minutes of the film were quite easy to deal with. It's just that everything else afterwards is the challenge. At least you watched 15 minutes of it. I don't blame you for not going into the rest of the film.

@Fisti-It is a horror film at the most horrific form. It may not look nor feel like a horror film but its content is pure horror. I would recommend watching this film all alone and just see how much of it you can take.

@Wendell Ottley-It wasn't an easy choice as I knew this was going to be tough to watch. Pacing wise was fine. It was just that some of the shit that I saw made me scream NO! throughout the film. I would also get a barf bag near though I was able to watch it without vomiting.