A Mad Dream

Linked with Pier Paolo Pasolini – Italia.

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s own notes on him film Salò

Excerpts: … Pasolini was trenchant when discussing Salò. Below are two pieces in which he introduces and then annotates his film, paying particular attention to its relationship to Sade’s novel and to Italian fascism. The first, a ‘Foreword’, was written in 1974, a few months before filming began. The date of the second is unclear, but appears to have been written later. Both pieces are reproduced from an English-language press book (in the collection of James Ferman) issued, it seems, in Italy to accompany the release of the film. (Both pieces have been lightly edited.) There is no record of any translator in the press book …

… Despite my absolute fidelity to Sade’s text, I have however introduced an absolutely new element: the action instead of taking place in eighteenth-century France, takes place practically in our own time, in Salò, around 1944, to be exact. This means that the entire film with its unheard-of atrocities which are almost unmentionable, is presented as an immense sadistic metaphor of what was the Nazi-Fascist ‘dissociation’ from its ‘crimes against humanity’.

Curval, Blangis, Durcet, the Bishop – Sade’s characters (who are clearly SS men in civilian dress) behave exactly with their victims as the Nazi-Fascists did with theirs. They considered them as objects and destroyed automatically all possibility of human relationship with them …

… Salò and Sade: Practical reason says that during the Republic of Salò it would have been particularly easy given the atmosphere to organise, as Sade’s protagonists did, a huge orgy in a villa guarded by SS men. Sade says explicitly in a phrase, less famous than so many others, that nothing is more profoundly anarchic than power – any power. To my knowledge there has never been in Europe any power as anarchic as that of the Republic of Salò: it was the most petty excess functioning as government. What applies to all power was especially clear in this one. In addition to being anarchic what best characterises power – any power – is its natural capacity to turn human bodies into objects. Nazi-Fascist repression excelled in this. Another link with Sade’s work is the acceptance/non-acceptance of the philosophy and culture of the period. Just as Sade’s protagonists accepted the method – at least mental or linguistic – of the philosophy of the Enlightened Age without accepting all the reality which produced it, so do those of the Fascist Republic accept Fascist ideology beyond all reality. Their language is in fact their comportment (exactly like the Sade protagonists) and the language of their comportment obeys rules which are much more complex and profound than those of an ideology. The vocabulary of torture has only a formal relation with the ideological reasons which drive men to torture. Nonetheless with the characters in my film, although what counts is their sub-verbal language, their words also have a great importance. Besides their verbiage is rather wordy. But such wordy verbiage is important in two senses: firstly it is part of the presentation, being a ‘text’ of Sade’s, that is being what the characters think of themselves and what they do; and, secondly, it is part of the ideology of the film, given that the characters who quote anachronistically Klossowsky and Blanchot are also called upon to give the message I have established and organised for this film: anarchy of power, inexistence of history, circularity (non-psychological not even in the psychoanalytic sense) between executioners and victims, an institution anterior to a reality which can only be economic (the rest, that is, the superstructure, being a dream or a nightmare) … (full text).

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