Okay – so yeah. Salo.
What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? To call Salo one of the most deservedly controversial films of all time is not hyperbole. While some may claim (indeed have claimed) that the levels of violence and torture in Salo have been surpassed in recent years (A Serbian Film comes to mind) there’s no getting around it – Salo is a difficult piece of work to digest.
Truth be told – Salo pales in comparison to its’ source material, Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom…although that’s not saying much. But how does one defend a work like Salo – a film that consists almost entirely of the systematic rape and torture of children? I don’t think it’s enough to dismiss it as fiction, to merely say ‘This is just a film – no one was actually harmed.’ Pasolini himself said ‘artists must create, critics defend, and democratic people support . . . works so extreme that they become unacceptable even to the broadest minds of the new State.’ If one believes that freedom of expression is absolute, one must defend the right of films such as Salo to exist. Of course – one can simply claim that artistic freedom is not unrestricted, that creative works must reach an ethical standard for society to abide their existence.
I don’t claim to have the answer, although I tend to side with artistic absolutists on the issue. If the question of who decides the value of art boils down to society vs. the individual, my gut tells me it’s the individual who should make this determination for themselves, and not that of the collective.
So watch – or don’t. It’s your choice.
Bonus: Coil – Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)