As a scathing indictment of the violence and debauchery revealed during the fascist reign of 1940s Italy, it is unparalleled. As a grotesquely perceptive commentary on the extremes of consumerist culture, it is overwhelmingly prescient. As an expressive exhibit in a filmmaker’s complete body of work—some films magnificent, some uneven—it stands as a masterpiece. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, released in 1975, his final feature, is many things to many viewers, at least to those with the stomach and desire to sit through its entirety. The scenes of graphic bloodshed, vileness, rape, defecation (and the subsequent eating of) and depraved sexuality are legendary; or, perhaps notorious is a better word. Banned and condemned yet hailed and renowned, the film is an enigma of world cinema. “There are some films from which not just individual images but a whole way of seeing remains lodged in the mind,” writes Neal Bartlett. “In this category, Pasolini’s infamous Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom has a very particular place.”1 It is indeed a horrific, supremely disturbing, and brilliantly polarizing creation from one of the great film artists.

Pasolini was no stranger to aesthetically analytical work; his writings theorized with considerable influence on the nature of cinema itself. But rarely in his films did he explicitly venture into the sort of self-reflexive look at his art as, say, Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut. He would scrutinize society (Accattone, 1961); family (Mamma Roma, 1962); religion (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964); literature (the “Trilogy of Life”: The Decameron, 1971, The Canterbury Tales, 1972, and Arabian Nights, 1974); myth (Oedipus Rex, 1967, and Medea, 1969); sexuality and love (Love Meetings, 1964); and seemingly all of the above and more (Teorema, 1968). But Pasolini never made his 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963) or even his Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954). To be sure, Salò isn’t the only film in which Pasolini incorporates techniques that call direct attention to cinematic construction. As Barth David Schwartz notes, “Later, when budgets allowed it, even his special effects were supposed to look ‘phoney,’ illustrating the ‘art’ in ‘artifice.’”2 And, as Dante Ferretti observes, “He didn’t mind if his films had ‘mistakes,’ if they weren’t smooth or perfect. That wasn’t his idea of cinema.”3 Furthermore, while not as obvious a distancing tactic as a direct address to the camera or jump-cut, this rough-hewn nature did indicate a degree of self-awareness, bringing forth the director’s aesthetic intent. Such occasionally jarring and even amusing inconsistencies in continuity and design indicate a deliberate visual pitch of immediacy and fabrication.

Similarly, Pasolini’s literal presence in The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, where he played Giotto and Chaucer, respectively, bears mention. It has been argued, as Maurizio Viano does, that “his appearance was metacinematic and ‘asserts his own awareness of the reflexive nature of his film.’”4 Viano does not believe, however, that Pasolini’s appearance is there to “reinforce an intentional undermining of illusionism,” but is instead a “preemptory statement of authorship, the overwhelming presence of a ‘pure’ creator intimidating what was being created.”5 But these two stances are not mutually exclusive; surely, his presence as the author is something of an “undermining of illusionism.” Such a blatant “statement of authorship” is in itself an attention-getting decision, one that disrupts the illusion. Essentially, then, according to Schwartz, who also alludes to Pasolini’s part in the omnibus Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963), where “Pasolini offered cinema about cinema, well in advance of that genre’s vogue,”6 “[w]e are inside a work of art as it is being made by the artist, himself within the work of art.”7

Other distancing effects are also present in Pasolini’s work prior to Salò. Viano notes, for instance, the dual framings in Accatone, where “one becomes aware that framing is the author’s choice rather than the best and most natural position for the camera to be looking at things.”8 But rarely have these effects been in the service of a larger commentary about cinema itself. One possible exception, Viano contends, is how Mamma Roma addresses the “question of neorealism,” presenting, “an unequivocal critique of neorealism from both an ideological and formal point of view.”9 In this case, though, Pasolini wasn’t critiquing the nature and function of cinema as an artistic medium, but rather a particular type of localized, post-war filmmaking that was now due redefinition and scrutiny. Using film as a way to express his ideas, ideas frequently unrelated to movies, Pasolini, with Teorema, “sought to formulate theory through the medium of cinema,”10 but it would take Salò for him to exhaustively develop and express a theory specifically of the cinema with the cinema. An examination of Salò shows it is here where Pasolini presents his most revealing observation on filmmaking, on spectatorship, and on cinema generally. The mise-en-scene of Salò was to have a functionally didactic purpose as well as an aesthetic one. For all that it is—and it is much—Salò can be seen as an inspection of how and why one watches films, how they work, why they work, and what it all means. Looking at the picture in a technical and theoretical light, it reveals itself to be Pasolini’s true metafilm: his film on film.

As the opening credits roll, a self-conscious provocation of cinematic convention is teased, one particularly associated with Hollywood of its classic period. As Gary Indiana states, the choice of music—“These Foolish Things”—is an ironically romantic counterpoint, indicating “how we should view the movie that follows.”11 In this case, such an openly contradictory song, especially contrasted to what is about to transpire, proves one of the more knowing bits of rare humor in the film. From there, Pasolini begins the picture with the assembling of youth captured for ambiguous purposes as yet unannounced by The Duke, The Bishop, The Magistrate, and the President (Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo Quintavalle, and Aldo Valletti). What is taking place in the scenes of kidnapping and those that follow, where a victim’s worth is subsequently estimated, is like a perverted casting session, as the four men and their accompanying women round up and select the young boys and girls they wish to join them at their isolated château. It is telling that much of what makes a subject worthy or not is based on their physical traits, for the sad fact of the movie business is many actors and actresses, particularly younger performers, are to a sizeable degree taken into consideration based solely on their looks. What develops early in Salò is an obscene commentary on superficial casting, which Viano suggests when he declares, “The four libertines abusing their victims are like a film director who chooses the signs, that is, the characters of a story, and masterminds their interaction in a textual system,” adding, “[t]he choice of bodies and faces follows criteria of beauty and perfection, a la Hollywood.”12 These individuals are to be attractive pawns in the perverse chess game played out by the men, their function being one of base arousal, physical, sexual specimens rather than substantive human personalities.

One girl, while quite attractive, is nevertheless turned away due to a slight tooth deformity. One may not know what to make of this petty denial, and in retrospect, it seems bizarre indeed that after all these juveniles go through, such an impediment would be of concern. But it is representative of how these men, like the shallowest of moviemakers, are more concerned with the most apparent of features. In fact, it would seem Pasolini himself frequently chose performers, mostly male, based on looks (would many argue Pasolini favorite Ninetto Davoli was judged not by Pasolini’s physical preferences but for his acting ability?). Consider Pasolini’s stated casting of Salò, which sounds remarkably like the ways in which the youth are selected in the film’s fictional establishment:

I just visit Rome’s outskirts and look for those young people who may be able to interpret themselves on the screen […] This remains the most exciting moment for me because the film does not exist yet, but, at the same time, it is taking shape through these characters I’m picking who are often so authentic to inspire me new and interesting scenes for my film.13

Not to draw any unfair or undue comparisons, it is nevertheless analogous to the manner by which the four libertines assemble their “cast.”

Like the countless young stars and starlets who enter the movie business from the very bottom, with dreams of Hollywood celebrity, the identities of the boys and girls in Salò are generally anonymous. Some are given names and occasionally slight allusions to their backgrounds are made, but the individuals selected are ultimately left mysterious in their characterization and development. Who they are and where they came from is superfluous. They are here to serve a simple role, and that is that. Schwartz wonders whether or not Salò actually has “a plot without real characters, only types,”14 and as Indiana writes, “Although Salò is the ultimate chamber piece, not all of its figures emerge as ‘characters.’ On the contrary, none of them do. Apart from the libertines and courtesans […] the actors typically have only a moment or two of individual screen time…”15 However, Pasolini rightly notes some justification in this decision to limit, if not wholly remove, any strong sense of prolonged or involved character identification: “If I made them likable victims who cried and tore at the heart then everyone would leave the movie house after five minutes. Besides, I don’t do that because I don’t believe it.”16 Were these youth to evolve into more uniquely identifiable characters with whom the audience could more fully empathize, the result would be drastically different—more emotional, less analytical. Within a narrative form that would normally rely upon audience-character engagement, Salò questions how a film flows and progresses when such engagement is not pronounced or even of essential concern.

This also comes through in Pasolini’s choices of when, how, and to what extent to have audiences enter the minds of the characters. Certain points of view in the film attempt to bring the audience into the visual position of the characters, but for Indiana, “[t]he only ‘look’ that approximates that of the viewer is the occasional, inexpressive gaze of a child-victim caught in unexpected close-up.”17 He refers to the facial expressions on certain performers, some of whom seem disconnected to what is actually happening, as if they were “given no direction, or been told they were out of frame.”18 Somehow, they do not appear caught up in the extreme nature of the film, and this perceived passivity works to further distance the audience, which struggles to seize the detached identification. There is a cold regard on the faces of these characters, a severed resignation to the finality of their capture. But this is just the beginning of constant looking in Salò, done by those who are indirectly involved, done by the men, the victims, and, of course, the audience. Pasolini’s lingering on these blank faces prompts the question of what they are thinking, and why, on Pasolini’s part, is there the focus to begin with. What is one supposed to be feeling? It is left unclear because, as will be explored further, one is prevented from ever getting too close. It recalls the Duke’s comment about “observing, as we do, with equal passion and apathy.”

In any event, these are not fleshed out individuals; they are objects to be obtained and consumed. Under the direction of the men in charge, the youth are nothing more than carnal products at their disposal. Pasolini doesn’t refer specifically to pornography along these lines, but a comparison to that form certainly seems apt, as their “anonymous movie star aura, [closely resembles] that of conventional porn.”19 Likewise, Stephen Barber contends, “Sex in Salò […] is also a metaphor for the relationship of power with those ones who are subjected to it. … the representation […] of what Marx calls the commodification of man, the reduction of the human body to a thing (through its exploitation).”20 Pasolini almost admits his guilt in a related infraction. While he may consider Salò a metaphor for product-driven formula, he states concerning the young actors cast in the film, some of them amateurs, “the girls were picked among fashion models because they had to have nice bodies and because—above all—they didn’t have to be afraid of showing them.”21 The women (and presumably the men as well) were chosen based on their attractiveness, to play characters themselves chosen for their allure. Still, according to production designer Dante Ferretti, “[Pasolini] detested the antiseptic aspect of the modern world and everything that made people and their products, even the simplest and humblest ones, anonymous and indistinguishable.”22 Such statements echo studies that have concentrated on the objectification of performers, particularly female, throughout motion picture history. “That’s what I’m trying to get at,” stated Pasolini. “In addition to the metaphor of the sexual relationship (obligatory and ugly) that consumerist powers tolerance is making us live nowadays, all the sex in Salò […] is also a metaphor for the relationship between power and those subjected to it.”23 The notion is reiterated by Viano: “Like Salò’s Sadean libertines, Pasolini wanted absolute control over the bodies in the film, forcing smiles that looked false, demanding passion where there was none…”24 Pasolini’s choice to have these adolescents, specifically the girls, kept waiting in a separate room from the four men, brought in one at a time, usually naked or made to get naked, further emphasizes the comparison. The trepidation expressed on their faces is like an extreme and tainted parallel to those budding actresses in casting offices, awaiting the chance to impress, by whatever degrading means perhaps necessary. There is no question here, though, these roles are decidedly and most emphatically not desired.

As Pasolini continues to establish Salò’s plot, the four men in charge of this dissolute production meet in a room, signing their names to what is essentially a script for what they are about to produce: “All’s good if it’s excessive,” declares The Bishop. Here one cannot help but think of film producers laying down the basest of requirements for their next big film—sex and violence, as much as possible. Once mobilized and perched on a balcony high above the youth, guards, and servants, the quartet begins to reveal the “story” to come, to those in attendance and those watching the film. Opening a book with the details of what is to develop—in this, see the script, story, or treatment—they proclaim there will be a “meeting at 6 p.m. in the so-called orgy room where the storyteller, in turn, will sit and tell a series of stories on a given subject.” To this end, Indiana quotes Roland Barthes, discussing, “[t]he enclosure of the Sadian site,” where, “[o]nce shut in, the libertines, their assistants, and their subjects form a total society, endowed with an economy, a morality, a language, and a time articulated into schedules, labors, and celebrations. Here, as elsewhere, the enclosure permits the system, i.e., the imagination.”25 Essentially, they are setting the scene in a location over which they have total autonomy and dominance. They are directing this narrative and there must be, even with so much otherwise permissible, rules and regulations to maintain the effective execution of their desired creation.

As Salò moves forward, other than scenes of eating and various moments of wicked behaviour, there is the storytelling. A significant portion of Salò takes place in a grandiose, ornately decorated room where, with piano accompaniment, Signora Maggi relates a repertoire of pornographic tales, the aim of which is to “stir the imagination.” Her audience sits submissively, the four men and the more accepting of the guards, with rapt attention, hanging on to, and intermittently being influenced by, her every word. Like a captive theater crowd, those listening take a spectator position with Maggi center stage. The stress on what is seen as performance, a spectacle of decadence featuring moments that go from over the top to “that odd place where the artist winks at the audience from behind the camera,”26 is similarly emphasized by the many framings through doorways that block later sequences. The stories, darkly absurd and involving an array of sexual encounters, act as a form of encouragement for the libertines and their unwilling, frightened young slaves. Maggi is, in this, providing direction, or suggestion, for activities to ensue. On occasion, the stories are interrupted by the men, spurred on by the bawdy tales, their carnal urges becoming too much and needing to be satisfied. Other times, almost comically so, they are broken up by a request for clarification and detail. As if at a pitch meeting where parts of the plot are in need of explanation, Maggi is asked to elaborate on elements of her relations, all in order to provide further stimulation. A story here, like in any good film, needs to be without plot holes and omissions; a full account of what occurred is necessary for a complete and adequate comprehension. The story of Salò is in many ways about the process of effective storytelling itself, rather paradoxically so given the aforementioned detachment.

Prior to the story sessions, Maggi is often seen in her room preparing for her performance. Applying makeup, fanciful dress and jewelry, and examining her physical features in the mirror, she is, like any entertainer, getting into character. In direct opposition to her juvenile age in the stories she narrates, Maggi comes across as a more disturbing and monstrous Norma Desmond, an aged and faded woman attempting to recapture a bit of her youthful beauty. All the older women in the film, despite their makeup and attire, appear worn, having endured God knows what in their lives to this point. They are no longer the young ingénues they used to be. Now, like a matured movie star, their sexual place has been taken by younger suppliants. The girls in Salò are those sexually involved with the men; Maggi is reduced to stories of escapades much earlier in life. It’s worth noting that Elsa de Giorgi, who plays Maggi, was herself a former star of Italian “white telephone” films from the 1930s and ‘40s, and as Indiana comments, “[t]he courtesans get to be ‘actresses’ for the others, and since they are played by actresses, bring histrionic panache to their recitations, yet they continue to be ciphers under their magnificent gowns and garish stage make-up.”27 Again one sees Pasolini’s self-conscious assembling of characters who, to a certain extent, represent or even embody traits of the actual performers.

From a technical standpoint, Pasolini takes a unique approach to filming Salò, certainly compared to his preceding works, which consisted of a rugged, hand-held, and somewhat raucous quality, unpolished and unrestrained. According to Peter Bondanella, “In contrast to the exuberance and vitality of his three adaptations of the trilogy [The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights], Salò is a somber, static work, emphasizing highly stylized period sets … intricately formal compositions, and relatively long takes and few camera movements. This static style underlines the increasingly closed and repressive nature of the activities taking place in the villa.”28 Here, Pasolini takes a strict, more controlled vantage point, staying in longer shots, keeping close-ups to a minimum, emphasizing symmetry and compositional restraint. When there is a cut in close to a character, the effect is pronounced. Knowing well the troubling impact of what he created with this film, Pasolini keeps the camera, and thus the audience, at a deceptively “safe” distance, sometimes from across a room or with inanimate objects like tables restricting the view of certain actions. The composition as The Duke defecates on the floor is an exemplary case, where a long table runs vertically in the frame, keeping much of his lower body, at the far end of the table, out of view.

With these methodical choices, Pasolini creates a film where the audience becomes unusually cognizant of what they are and are not seeing. Kept at a vantage at times many feet away, the effect is captivating. In these longer shots, even as heinous actions are taking place, the viewer sits by in comparative relief. It’s clear what is happening, but it becomes disturbingly easier to watch when not seen in detail. As Indiana puts it, “Pasolini’s determination to implicate the viewer in this ‘evil’ [denies] us the guilty pleasure of viewing it head-on.”29 While nearly all films utilise these varying compositional features, few come close to filling said compositions with what Pasolini does in Salò. Therefore, the effect is more distinct. With deeds so affecting and difficult to witness, how much is actually seen becomes an integral part of the film’s totality, in a way that is not the case for most standard releases. Salò thus acts as a textbook on the psychological and at times physiological effects cutting and camera placement can have on the spectator. With each aesthetic decision employed by Pasolini, he is sharply manipulating a visceral response.

This is made clear throughout the film, as the audience is subjected to a bombardment of excruciating exploits. While some may look away, or the camera itself looks away, the final moments of Salò call explicit attention to how one watches these incidents. As the boys and girls are horded together in a yard of tortures, where they will meet their ultimate demise, the viewer, disconcertingly so, is in the exact same position as the libertines, some of whom are watching from their rooms, settled upon a chair, looking out a window through their binoculars. “As the Sadean captor looks down into Hell, into a narrative enacted for him as an observer in a place of safety, so do we,” writes Schwartz. “The binoculars’ frame-in-a-frame is part of what has been called the ‘distancing tactics’ in the film: the torture is ‘real,’ on screen, but isolated as though controlled. One can lower the glasses, turn away. It is, by rough analogy, the sight of bombs exploding at night, recorded from the air, or watching war in ‘just a movie.’”30 Pasolini here begins the most visually interesting and shocking exploration of cinema in the film.

As the men gaze down at horrendous scenes of bloodletting, torture, and further sexual humiliation, Pasolini sporadically takes their point of view, shooting the image with the frame masked to represent an ocular vision—at once their point of view while also a clearly constructed version of it. Here, and it is perhaps difficult to admit and accept, one sees what these deranged men are seeing, as they see it; the viewer is, in effect, them. Having previously reverted to objective vantage points, now Pasolini switches gears and presents a view that is dictated by the movement of these men and their subjective vision, and by their desires to see particular actions. According to Bartlett:

We, the viewers, are positioned not merely as witnesses to Salò but as its inhabitants. Indeed, for a film that takes such pains to distance its atrocities with so many levels of formality, it is extraordinarily immediate. Never has the mere act of watching felt so like victimhood, so like complicity, so like power—the unholy trinity of Fascist ideology that the film both embodies and dissects.31

At this point in Salò, as we see what these men want us to see, as they themselves are watching it, we obligingly continue to go along with the action. And this is where one of Salò’s most profound visual effects becomes evident. As Barber notes, “The film adroitly maneuvers the viewer’s perspective between that of the victim and that of the torturer, finally situating the viewer firmly in the torture-seat.[…] on the side of monstrosity, and then has a long way back to travel, corporeally and mentally, at the end of the film, if the decision is taken to repudiate that position.”32 While Pasolini concludes the film with these scenes of wantonness and carnage, and as we view it through the perspective of the men responsible, more than ever before we become aware of what we are seeing and what we have seen throughout the film. And to the active viewer, it becomes upsettingly clear that despite the nature of what has happened, we have, indeed, watched it. No matter the degree of abhorrent or outlandish imagery, we sat through the film until the very end. Pasolini’s final comment seems to be that while we condemned these individuals and were disgusted by their actions and words, we nevertheless continued to watch. We could have turned it off or left the theater, but we did not. Those who made it through the film now have to think, “Why did I watch that, how did I get through that, and what does that mean?” These are questions undoubtedly asked after finishing any number of films, but the questions become more pertinent with a film like Salò, so full of alarming and despicable behaviour.

This is the film’s definitive provocation: denounce these men as we will (and probably did), be repulsed by what they do and what is shown, but remember, we watched it. For two hours, we sat willingly and viewed a series of terrible deeds, even if it was “just a movie.” This, in the end, is Pasolini’s final observation on cinema, on how, through the detachment and displacement that goes along with watching a movie, we find ourselves accepting the unacceptable, watching what would be in real-world circumstances unwatchable. “This film,” writes Bartlett, “exists to give form to precisely that which is beyond imagining, to stage things that ‘didn’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ happen. …with all the forces of a great imagination at its disposal, it makes you believe you are seeing them.”33 With Salò, it is a delicate balancing act for Pasolini; on one hand, he gives a graphic impression of actual horror, while, on the other, he is simultaneously working in such a way that calls clear attention to the artificiality of it all. Sam Rohdie notes Pasolini “accomplishes the difficult task of making the most terrible acts seem actual yet also staged, constructed, narrated, and unreal, a contrived theater of cruelty at once fact and language, horror and performance, reality and image.”34 Subsequently, the act of viewing, of watching the scenes of sexual and violent degradation, is one Salò’s more perceptive concerns. Among its many inflammatory suggestions is how and why we are able to view what we do in movies, versus that which we would find repellant in real life.

This, of course, carries over to all visual art forms that have similarly focused on graphic depictions of unpleasant material, but with cinema, the absorption of such imagery reaches new levels of acceptance and new degrees of popularity. “We could even say that cinema made it impossible for us to keep ignoring the bodily aspects of all artistic consumption,” argues Viano, “because from its inception, film aroused physical reactions in an unprecedented way.”35 Confronting the acceptability of screen imagery, from mainstream releases to “body horror” to pornography, Salò, as Indiana puts it, is “a challenge to the hierarchy of film images that divides ‘tasteful’ nudity and eroticism from ‘pornography.’”36 In these concluding scenes, even more than other sections of the film, “Pasolini wants his readers and viewers not simply to question themselves, but to hate themselves. This asks a bit more than most people can manage.”37 Scholar David Forgacs also brings up the comparison between Salò and pornography, as well as the horror film. However, as he notes, such comparisons are meager. Close-ups, upon which pornography is strongly reliant, are nearly absent from Salò, as much of the most explicit that happens is seldom shown in intense proximity and certainly not for long. As such, it becomes obvious that anything even remotely titillating in Salò is not at all the intent. As for the horror film, Salò deviates from that genre in a number of ways, primarily, as Forgacs points out, in terms of character identification. As has already been noted, there is no hero or heroine in Salò for the audience to rally behind. In Indiana’s words, “Salò engages voyeurism rather than empathy, and attempts to turn voyeurism back on itself with various distancing devices.”38

As much as Salò may also be about consumerist culture, taking it all in, more and more, never contented, it is equally about a jaded, contrastingly passive and desensitized culture of spectators. What takes place in this film is very bad, but through that camera lens and through the projector or television screen, notions of acceptability are altered and questioned, and ultimately rendered complacent. One will look at the most dreadful things, but will let go with a level of artificiality and remove. Murders, rapes, maimings, perversions of bodily functions, behavioral debasement: on a screen, watching in the confines of a theater or in the comfort of a living room, a level of acceptance is distorted and broadened. So, where does that situate us in relation to the characters in this film? It is a disturbingly brilliant question of complex spectatorship that Pasolini leaves us with, and it is just one of several ways in which Salò gains its impact and its lasting influence.

Whatever its multifaceted meanings, Salò exists as a work begging for analysis and interpretation. It represents, according to Viano, “the victory of referentiality. Its images are not ambiguous, but have a meaning that the viewers cannot escape.”39 Indeed, it is difficult to look at the film and take everything at face value without reading into it assorted potential meaning. In general, Pasolini’s films, as Viano notes, “are normally regarded as the initiators of the cinema delle metafore, a cinema of metaphors rather than reality.”40 And, he argues, Pasolini even suggests “a poem or a film is so much more effective if it manages to offer an idea of how its author lives, what his/her relationship to the text is. In other words, the awareness of the production of meaning is not to be entrusted to the difficulties of a film on filming but to a film poetically bent upon revealing the authors subjactivity.”41 The presence of this particular author was so blatant to some, so grounded in his own life and ideas, that during the investigation into Pasolini’s murder, one French reviewer suggested Salò be shown as part of the defense, implying, “anybody capable of directing such a film was practically begging to be murdered.”42 Ultimately, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom examines and critiques—or at the very least, calls attention to—several facets of the cinema. It is not necessarily a statement on his own body of work (though Schwartz acknowledges the scene of the excrement eating is arranged similarly to the wedding sequence of Mama Roma), but with Salò, Pasolini probes through formal, conjectural, and psychological means the nature of the cinematic medium, its history, its artistic and revelatory function, and its critical effects.


  1. Neal Bartlett, Watching Salò, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, Oct. 4, 2011)
  2. Barth David Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), p. 351
  3. Graziella Chiarcossi, Roberto Chiesi, eds., Pier Paolo Pasolini: My Cinema (Bologna: Cineteca di Bologna, 2012), p. 5
  4. Maurizio Viano, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini’s Film Theory and Practice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 272
  5. Ibid., p. 272
  6. Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem, p. 573
  7. Ibid., p. 408
  8. Viano, A Certain Realism, p. 74
  9. Ibid., p. 87
  10. Ibid., 20
  11. Gary Indiana, Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (London: BFI Publishing, 2000), p. 33
  12. Viano, A Certain Realism, p. 303-304
  13. Stephen Barber, ed., Pasolini: The Massacre Game. Terminal Film, Text, Words 1974-75 (Sun Vision Press, 2013), p. 21
  14. Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem, 351
  15. Indiana, Salò, p. 34
  16. Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem, p. 655
  17. Indiana, Salò, p. 56
  18. Ibid., p. 42
  19. Ibid., p. 44
  20. Barber, The Massacre Game, p. 25
  21. Ibid., p. 27
  22. Chiarcossi, My Cinema, p. 6
  23. Ibid., p. 184
  24. Viano, A Certain Realism, p. 271
  25. Indiana, Salò, p. 56
  26. Ibid., p. 54
  27. Ibid., p. 69
  28. Peter Bondanella, Italian Cinema. From Neorealism to the Present (New York: Continuum, 2004), p. 294-295
  29. Indiana, Salò, p. 59
  30. Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem, p. 658
  31. Bartlett, Watching Salò
  32. Barber, The Massacre Game, p. 58
  33. Bartlett, Watching Salò
  34. Sam Rohdie, A Cinema of Poetry, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray. Oct. 4, 2011)
  35. Viano, A Certain Realism, 42
  36. Indiana, Salò, p. 28
  37. Ibid., p. 18-19
  38. Ibid., p. 57
  39. Viano, A Certain Realism, p. 301
  40. Ibid., p. 53
  41. Ibid., p. 66, author’s original italics
  42. Indiana, Salò, p. 13