Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) – A Roughest Film

I can think of the most disturbing movie I have ever seen. I can say “Requiem for a Dream“, “The Human Centipede”, “Dogtooth“, etc. Films work when you feel what the movie wants to intend for. For instance, if you want to feel scared, just watch a horror movie. If you want to cry or feel thousand of feelings, just watch a drama movie. It works well when you can feel the movie as well. You recognize what the movie wants you to feel. And for that, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” came.

I have a high curiosity before watching this film even though I know a little about the history behind this film. One of the most interesting things, and the most terrifying one, is that the director himself was killed by a hustler before the movie was released. A conspiracy arose after years passed, he refused if he never participated in the first place. He claimed that three mysterious men were involved and the case, until now, remains unsolved. An interesting theory is that these people are a specific group in which Pasolini directly exploits the group.

Pasolini also used the city of Salo in northern Italy, the place where Benito Mussolini’s fascist government made its capital from 1943 to 1945. Pasolini used Salo, and the theme of fascism itself because his brother was killed there. There are so many interesting theories and conspiracies about behind the curtain of this movie, the director himself, how the theme was so explicit, and the Criterion Collection so paying attention to this movie as well. Controversially, it’s hard to say if this is a good or even a bad movie. I can’t say that both beside it’s managed to make me almost puke and disgust with the film contents.

Today, this movie was still banned in some countries. Indeed, I can talk about a lot of things. I can talk about why I have to go through this film without skipping one scene after another. And even more miraculously, this is my first time watching Italian movies. It’s fascinating and amazing at the same time. At the end of the day, “Salò” became one of Pasolini’s most confrontational work from films in general. Even if you finish watching this film, you would beg with so many questions.

The story is about a fascist group, capitalism, or whatever you called, during WWII-Nazi Occupied Italy, trying to kidnap 18 youngsters. By filtering them from their physical, minds, to their endurance of the body, only nine are left behind. The rest, we never know unless you read the book. This group brought these nine young children to become a guinea pig. The fascist group tested their mental, physical, sexual, etc. for 120 days. They were sodomized, raped, given excrement, and so on.

“Salò” is shocking, disturbing, uncompromised, slow, quiet, loud. It’s everything. It’s a little bit of a slow-paced movie. When you gradually start to feel disgusted, you feel if the film is too fast. You didn’t want to watch it a second time. Glorifying violence in media isn’t a thing. I’ve watched worse than this. I often see how they always represent violence in excess, enjoyable, full of excitement, full of energy, and entertainment. And yes, this feels like an experimental film in real life, like you find mostly in a dark weeb without annoying and corny editing.

In essence, Pasolini wants to tell us that violence isn’t a dark joke. Or isn’t it? It shows violence in a sad, painful, emotional, disturbing, and disgust. Indeed, is there nothing else besides using excrement as a symbolism of capitalism and junk food? It’s so gross. At the same time, all of such violent things in this movie exceed what humans, or even the movie today, cannot exceed it. It’s more like a terrible realization because you just aren’t strong enough to hold and see how all these horrible acts could work.

You can’t imagine when the characters in this film must eat their excrement at dinner. Just imagine how you often have dinner with family or eat together because there is a party. Imagine, excrement and sh*t replaced all these delicious foods. Yeah, the most disgusting thing I’ve ever witnessed, and don’t want to see or even imagine that again, which is seeing people ate their excrement. You would prefer to watch 2 Girls 1 Cup because it’s just two girls eating their sh*t for one minute. It’s just one minute. And then, this movie has a 117-minute runtime of people eat sh*t. Unbelievable!

Above the controversial, over-the-top explicit content, and nihilistic content, this movie has so many influences in filmmaking. It shot like a documentary cinema like you watch this in real life without thinking whether this is fiction or not. Yeah, the ad-libbed and post-dubbed dialogue kind of seems out of place for me and it’s noticeable honestly. Or is there any hidden intention? The practical effect especially when it comes to the final part, Circle of Blood, is quite realistic. The characters, I think, there are no individuated characters. It’s more like these youngsters try to last for 120 days. A disgusting manner also represented the fascist. They masturbate to each other, sodomize each other, give each other anal sex, and so on.

Do you want to feel desperately gross for two hours? Just watch this movie. It designed to shake your complacency, question yourself about humans, and shout angry or sick. Miraculously and independently of the content, this is a necessary and most important film in history. It reminds me of what we always know about film history, especially violent movies. It’s to recreate a reaction without having to think what’s the point of what’s the meaning of all of these. Simply, “Salò” is just reminding you how the film is indeed for just “entertainment”, not else. Maybe not for everyone, especially if you want to find an enjoyable experience. To conclude, it’s an experience and a roller coaster.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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