Previously at the ICA - Films

Pasolini, Theorem, 1968

Members Screening: Theorem

29 Mar 2015

The first of Pasolini's consciously "difficult" films was Teorema (1968) which the director had already published as a novel. In the film an enigmatic, handsome stranger, played by Terence Stamp, introduces himself into the home of a bourgeois Milanese family and proceeds over a short period to physically and emotionally seduce all of them, including the maid. Then, as abruptly and mysteriously as he arrived, he departs, leaving all of them to cope with the existential void that he has opened up in their previously complacent existence.

Pasolini himself said that the film was allegory for the irruption of a sense of authenticity into the lives of an alienated bourgeoisie and predictably all four members of the bourgeois family (father, mother, daughter and son) deteriorate into states approaching madness although Emilia, the maid, returns to her peasant village and, after a period of penitence, performs a number of miracles and achieves sainthood.

The film ends with the haunting image of the father, having given away his factory to the workers and having taken off all his clothes, running naked and screaming through a biblical desert landscape. The film's powerful indictment of the sterility of contemporary bourgeois values was immediately recognised by no less than the jury of the OCIC (Office Catholique Internationale du Cinéma) which awarded it its prize at Venice. This decision, however, was immediately and violently contested by the rest of the Catholic authorities who soon had the film withdrawn and its author formally charged with obscenity. Pasolini was before the courts for two years before the charges were finally dismissed and the film formally released in 1970. By this time, however, he had already gone on to make what is probably his most "indigestible" film before Salò (1975).

Theorem, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy 1968, 98 mins.

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