Previously at the ICA - Films

Courtesy of Cineteca di Bologna

A Visionary Rage: Pasolini's Saint Paul

10 Jul 2014

Presented by A Nos Amours and Gareth Evans, a screening of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s forensic dissection of the tragedy of human society and life La Rabbia (The Rage), together with a top flight panel to discuss and celebrate the publication of Saint Paul by Verso Books (July 2014). The book presents - at long last in English translation - Pasolini’s screenplay for a life of Saint Paul, the unfilmed project that would have transposed the biblical Saint Paul to a contemporary setting.

We are delighted that to discuss Saint Paul and Pasolini's politics and attitude to religion we have a superb line up: Marina WarnerGiles FraserWard Blanton (contributor to Saint Paul and author of A Materialism for the Masses: Saint Paul and the Philosophy of Undying Life), and John David Rhodes (author of Stupendous Miserable City: Pasolini's Rome).

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s greatest achievement was his forceful, articulate, personal challenge to Church, state and religion in a country that had known fascism, was home to the Vatican and yet elected numbers of communist officials. His legacy is a sensational body of film and text works that go to the very root of all human life. His personality and intelligence is as vivid today, despite his brutal murder, as it ever was. His work is pervaded by fantastic prescience. His life of Christ film, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964) is claimed by many as not only the greatest religious film ever made, but also as a great exemplar of Marxist film-making.

Whatever the case, while he was preparing that masterpiece, he worked on La Rabbia, a commission from an owner of film-news reels (Gastone Ferrante). What Pasolini delivered was an incendiary polemic, and so it was paired for release with a polemical right-wing diatribe as a kind of counterbalance. Pasolini decided the double act was a trivialising offence, and withdrew the film. It disappeared, to resurface as a poor 16mm copy shown in 1988 at the Venice Film Festival. Happily Pasolini’s original has been lovingly reconstructed as far as possible by the Cineteca di Bologna and this is the version that will be presented here.

La Rabbia is a film poem with voices, images, both moving and still. It considers the wars and crises of the day, but transcends them all. The closing montage of atom bomb explosions and Marilyn Monroe is an iconic sequence charged with pathos, despair and ardour.

Having shot the life of Christ, Pasolini also conceived of a film about the life of Saint Paul:

With the simple strength of his religious message, Saint Paul in revolutionary fashion demolished a type of society founded on class violence, imperialism, and above all slavery. And so it is clear that for the Roman aristocracy and the various collaborationist ruling classes, one can substitute by analogy the present bourgeois class that has capital in its hands, while for the humble and downtrodden should be substituted the… subproletarians of today.

He outlined his project in 1966 and even published it in Italy in 1977. This was to be a film about the figure of Saint Paul, founder of the church, interpreter of the Gospel message. He would be however:

A double Saint Paul… schizophrenic, completely dissociated in two: one is a saint (obviously Saint Paul had a mystical experience  that was also authentic)… the other instead is the priest, ex-Pharisee, who recuperates his prior cultural situations and who will be the founder of the church. For this I condemn him… as the founder of the Church, with all the negative elements… the sex phobia, the anti-feminism, the organisation, the collars, the triumphalism, the moralism.

It is cinema’s great loss that this project was never filmed. It survives however as a luminous film in outline, and now in English translation superbly rendered by Elizabeth A. Castelli.

'Pasolini wanted to make a major film on the dialectical character of Paul. This would essentially be a sequel to his film on the Passion of Christ: the history of the Church, which, as guardian of the meaning of this Passion, propagates and perpetuates its truth effects, and also the history of the failure of this guardianship. He did not find financing for this film. But we have a very detailed scenario of it, a scenario that in my view is in itself a literary work of the first magnitude.' - from the foreward by Alain Badiou.

La Rabbia, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy 1963, 53 mins, 35mm. English subtitles

With thanks to Cinetca di Bologna, the Italian Cultural Institute London, and Minerva Pictures for generous support of this event

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