Apr 23, 2013
While with his prophetically scandalous cinematic swansong Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), Italian Renaissance man Pier Paolo Pasolini (Accattone, The Hawks and the Sparrows) decided to show EVERYTHING, including such savory scenarios as stark-naked crying girls reluctantly devouring literal fascist feces and the scalping of nice aristocratic boys by sinister sodomite stormtroopers, the auteur exposed virtually nothing, at least graphically speaking, in his film Theorem (1968) aka Teorema – a work that wallows in ambiguity and features next to nil nudity, and was promoted with the tempting tagline: “There are only 923 words spoken in "Teorema" - but it says everything!” In fact, the film’s title, which means “Theorem” in Italian, gives a rather obvious hint to Pasolini’s experimental styles with the film as an active practice of his own film theories in a work that has baffled viewers both due its arcane aesthetic and thematic nature and its ostensibly radical, revolutionary anti-bourgeois and anti-Vatican message. In fact, Teorema sparked so much confusion that it earned a special award at the Venice Film Festival from the International Catholic Film Office, only for the prize to be absurdly taken away when the Vatican complained. Indeed, a film about a mysterious “being” played by Terence Stamp—an English actor who has made a singular career playing sinisterly suave villains—who comes as a guest to the lavish, if not lifeless, home of a bourgeois Milanese family and buggers each member senselessly to the point of abject infatuation, including the somber Sicilian maid, only to leave them high and dry after bringing a wild spark into their lonely lives and thereupon resulting in the most extreme and unforeseeable consequences, it is no surprise that Teorema disconcerted a number of rather critical viewers, not least of all the upper echelons of the Catholic church, but that was Pasolini’s genius as a lifelong Marxist who surely was not a slogan-slinging, cardboard communist. A character not modeled after Jesus Christ as often assumed, Pasolini stated of Stamp as a mysterious guest: “Originally, I intended this visitor to be a fertility god, the typical god of preindustrial religion, the sun-god, the Biblical god, God the Father. Naturally, when confronted with things as they were, I had to abandon my original idea and so I made Terence Stamp into a generically ultraterrestrial and metaphysical apparition: he could be the Devil, or a mixture of God and the Devil. The important thing is that he is something authentic and unstoppable,” and “It is an Old Testament, not a New Testament, visitor.” If anything is for sure about the vivacious and sexually virile visitor, it is that he is better at persuading with his hands than with his mouth, which makes him the most holy of hustlers and a true prophet of the Pasolinian realm.
Things dramatically change for a banal bourgeois family when a handsome, humble, and hypnotic visitor shows up and reveals through his gentle touch and lecherous love that one must actually ‘live’ for life to be worth living, thus abandoning material possessions and social mores for embracing one's true erotic and emotional proclivities. In his first miraculous act, the visitor saves the family’s melancholy maid Emilia (1970s ‘Marxist diva’ Laura Betti, who apparently was more involved in 'directing' Stamp than Pasolini) from suicide, for which she repays him with serene and sensual sins of the flesh. From there, the visitor works his way up to fornicating with every member of the mundane middle-class family, despite age and sex. Naturally, considering he is bunking with the teenage son of the family, Pietro (Andrés José Cruz Soublette), the Visitor sleeps with the passive prodigal son first. After becoming sexually aroused by the Visitor’s chic fashion sense and fetishistically caressing a pair of his pants, the mother of the house, Lucia ("Miss Rome" 1946 Silvana Mangano, who Stamp admitted was the first women to give him a 'wet dream' as a little lad), strips off her clothes and lures the stranger in for sensual pleasure, for which he naturally abides. When the father of the home, Paolo (Massimo Girotti, whose acting career spanned seven decades)—a factory owner with a number of disgruntled workers—falls ill from an unexplained ailment of the bedridden sort, the Visitor heals him through his mere touch by wrapping the sick man's legs around his neck in a symbolic scene of ritualistic homoeroticism that actor Terrence Stamp stated of some twenty years after his performance in Teorema, “I did not then realize that the position in which I held him, with his [clothed] legs up on my shoulders, around my neck, was one used by homosexuals in intercourse.” Last, but certainly not least, the Visitor makes passionate love to the initially awkward teenage daughter of the house, Odetta (played by Princess Anne Wiazemsky, the then-wife of Jean-Luc Godard), who finally overcomes her fear of man and electra-complex-like infatuation with her father. While the Visitor saves the life of the maid, inspires individuality and artistic expression in the son, gives pleasure and emotional support to the lonely and sexually repressed mother, saves the life of the sick father in both a biological and metaphysical fashion, and makes a woman of the once-oversensitive daughter, things take a rather dramatic turn for the worse when the Visitor must leave just as casually and understatedly as he came.
In the end of Teorema, the son is a degenerate self-loathing artist who paints a canvas merely blue and subsequently urinates on it, the daughter enters a tragic comatose state, the mother becomes a militant cougar who hunts and beds young heterosexual twink prey, and the father gives away his factory business and strips off all of his clothes (and, in turn, he entire identity) at a train station (Milan Central Station) that Mussolini built and screams like a wounded animal on the brink of a horrific death. More interestingly and inexplicably, the maid Emilia, as an intuitive peasant who is lacking when it comes to the intellect, achieves a sort of sainthood that involves her hair turning green, becomes virtually mute and begins to eat raw nettles, levitates over a farmhouse in front of adoring peasants, and is lastly buried in the earth by a old peasant woman where she can weep for the world in the soil. As a card-carrying communist, director Paolo Pasolini was probably well aware that the Freudian-inspired sexualization of the public, as advocated by Judeo-Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky and Frankfurt school intellectuals like Herbert "Father of the New Left" Marcuse, was used as a technique to destroy the infrastructure and moral fabric of a society and in Teorema he cinematically carried out such a then-provocative scenario to almost supernatural extremes, albeit with a conspicuously and idiosyncratically Catholic bend. While on the set of Teorema in San Angelo Lodignano, Pasolini even had the audacity to admit to an interviewer regarding the work, “this is the first film I have shot in a bourgeois milieu with bourgeois characters. Until now, I have never done this because I could not bear to have to live with people I could not stand for months on end, fixing the script and then shooting the film.” Although Pasolini’s all-consuming commie-sodomite-Catholic hatred of the bourgeois boobs was rather seething, he did admit regarding the characters in Teorema, “I chose people who were not particularly odious, people who elicited a certainly sympathy—they are typical of the bourgeoisie, but not the very worst bourgeoisie,” even if he inevitably ruins these characters' lives in the process.
Ultimately, it seems like Pasolini’s greatest fantasy for Teorema was having a British bad boy invade people's beds—something the director indubitably probably wanted to experience firsthand himself—as a suave savior of sodomy, quite literally buggering away the bourgeoisie in a one-cock revolution of the semi-spiritual and seemingly quasi-Satanic. As for Stamp himself, he would describe Pasolini in a somewhat recent interview featured on the 2007 BFI DVD release of Teorema as an intellectual failure of sorts, whose “philosophies went nowhere” in the long run. Additionally, in the same interview, Stamp described how he “never received a penny” for his iconic role in Teorema, stating rather unflatteringly of Pasolini, “He may have been a left-wing communist in theory but in reality he was looking after number one.” Still, Stamp’s ‘free’ performance was ultimately worth it as it would prove to be one of the most interesting and standout roles of his career, even if he speaks next to no words. The second film in Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Mythical Cycle," Teorema proved to be an unholy yet strikingly spiritually mismatched marriage between communism and catholic sentiments, which has enabled his films to better stand the test of time than many of his leftist compatriots, whose totally materialistic philosophies and dreams of a Marxist society have drastically devolved (which is saying a lot!) into the braindead, Hollywood and MTV-spoon-fed form they take today. Ironically, the bourgeoisie of today— with its middle-class cultural marxism, perverse proclivities towards xenophilia and miscegenation, feminism and LGBT lunacy, and other stamps of cultural decay—is far more decadent and degenerate than that of the family in Pasolini’s Teorema. After all, I am sure Pasolini himself would have been sickened by the ‘bourgeois buggerer’ idea of gay marriage as it would have offended both his respect for Catholicism and his Marxist sensibilities as someone who wanted to subvert the middle-class and not the banalization of his own subversive sexual subculture. Indeed, times have certainly changed when a once-revolutionary work like Teorema seems rather tame.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:22 PM
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