Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom)

1979

Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom)

Critics Consensus

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom will strike some viewers as irredeemably depraved, but its unflinching view of human cruelty makes it impossible to ignore.

75%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 36

63%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 15,482
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Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) Photos

Movie Info

The final work of notorious Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, this film updates the Marquis de Sade's most extreme novel to fascist Italy in the final days of WW II. Dispensing with the novel's meditations on sexual liberation and the search for truth, Pasolini presents four decadents who kidnap dozens of young men and women and subject them to the most hideous forms of torture and perversion in an isolated villa. Rape, murder, and a coprophagic banquet are only the beginning of the atrocities on display. Photographed by Tonino Delli Colli, the film also features a lavish score by Ennio Morricone. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

Cast

News & Interviews for Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom)

Critic Reviews for Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom)

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (9)

  • There was a point to all this foulness; Pasolini was commenting on the dehumanising effect of fascism, with reference to Proust, Nietzsche and Dante's circles of Hell. You'll still want a shower afterwards, though.

    Sep 28, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Ed Potton

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Salo... is forceful only in making the viewer want to turn away.

    Oct 4, 2018 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • This film is essential to have seen but impossible to watch: a viewer may find life itself defiled beyond redemption by the simple fact that such things can be shown or even imagined.

    Apr 25, 2016 | Full Review…
  • It's very hard to sit through and offers no insights whatsoever into power, politics, history or sexuality. Nasty stuff.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Very hard to take, but in its own way an essential work.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A perfect example of the kind of material that, theoretically, anyway, can be acceptable on paper but becomes so repugnant when visualized on the screen that it further dehumanizes the human spirit, which is supposed to be the artist's concern.

    May 9, 2005 | Rating: 1/5

Audience Reviews for Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom)

  • Apr 18, 2016
    Pier Paolo Pasolini's body was found by the Italian police on November 2, 1975. His body had been repeatedly run over by his own car that was found being driven by a 17 year old male prostitute named Guiseppe Pelosi. Multiple bones of Pasolini was broken and his testicles crushed by a metal bar, his body was also covered in gasoline and burned after the point of death. Pelosi was picked up by Pasolini and he took him out to dinner. Later when driving in the car, Pasolini asked to sodomize Pelosi with a wooden spoon to which Pelosi beat Pasolini and when escaping in his car hit what he thought was a bump in the road. Pelosi would later confess to murdering him, but in 2005, 29 years later, would retract his confession saying he had made under threat of violence against his family. Pelosi then claimed that three Sicilian men had killed Pasolini after insulting him and calling him a "dirty Communist." More evidence linked to Pasolini's death involved an extortionist who had stolen rolls of film of his new film "Salo." Pasolini tried to get the film back by flying to Stockholm. In 2005, a judge charged with the investigation determined that the new evidence was insufficient enough to continue the inquiry. Pasolini was a journalist, philosopher, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, painter and a political figure in Italy. He was drafted by the military and was ultimately captured and held prisoner by the German Wehrmacht before escaping disguised as a peasant. It was during the war that he gradually rejected ideas of fascism and started learning more about Communism before joining the Italian Communist Party in 1945. That same year his brother would be killed in an ambush by Tito's Yugoslavian forces. He was openly gay ever since he was involved in a sex scandal and was also a known atheist. He collaborated with Federico Fellini on films in the 1940's and 1950's. In 1964, Pasolini wrote and directed "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" where all dialogue was taken directly from the Gospel of Matthew. In 2015, the Vatican called this film the best film on Christ ever made. In contrast, he also made one of the most notorious, most horrifyingly psychological film ever made. He would never see the film released in 1976, and many people around the world, even in countries where Freedom of Speech is protected, would not be able to see the film for almost two decades. "Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom" is a beautiful film, very well directed and acted with very grotesque, ugly, shameful acts of power exerted over teenage boys and girls being held captive in a palace in the capital of Salo in the Italian Socialist Republic, or simply called the Republic of Salo in the film. In 1944-1945, the Fascists have been forced to flee and they headed north to the city of Salo to run their puppet government of Nazi Germany. Four wealthy officials of the government create a manifesto proclaiming that "All's good if it's excessive," and their brutality throughout the film is absolutely excessive. They select four men to be guards and four more as studs based on the size of their penis. The four officials then marry off their four daughters to one another and force them to serve the officials and their prisoners food naked. Then under force they hold captive nine teenage boys and girls and tell them that they are now their slaves and they will be forced to do unspeakable sexual acts with their captors. They also recruit four old prostitutes who tell stories of their youth of times when they were sexually abused which foreshadows the abuse that the prisoners face. After time, the prisoners are absolutely broken. And in a very telling scene where the officials have all the prisoners in a circle with their behinds in the air to judge who has the nicest anus, one official suggests a prize. The prize was suggested that it should be immediate death for the winner. It's pretty telling that death is a release from the living hell they are facing. Many of the acts depicted on screen are absolutely horrible to watch. The film I watched was the 116 minute edited feature where more than 25 minutes was cut. I can't imagine what unspeakable things were in those 25 minutes, but I could barely handle the edited version. Pasolini meant this to be a scathing attack on fascism, an immoral system bent on controlling the actions of the people. It ended up being mistaken by the authorities in many countries as glorifying sexual violence. Pasolini based the film on the Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom" and the film is broken into four parts, partly inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy." The score, though, is elegantly conducted by Ennio Moriconne. The costumes were very authentic for the time period, and the set pieces are amazing. It's just hard to notice some of the nuances of the filmmaking when you're forced to witness this. It's a very tough film to watch and through it all it's not that great a film only because there is absolutely no character in the film that you can identify with. There are only those who torture or those who are tortured in the film. It's two hours of teenagers being treated like they're less than human. Very few characters are given names and through it all, you just want their suffering to end, but it never ends and it just gets worse and worse.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 29, 2014
    Don't get too cozy about the days of Caligula's being far, far behind us, because if you go deep enough into Italy you're probably still going to find some sort of horrifying place of sexual depravity run by a high government. Well, jeez, do you think that fascism is bad, Pier Paolo Pasolini? If there is controversy surrounding the depravity of homosexuals, I don't think Pasolini helped with this film, because just when you think that Europeans have the classy gays, he goes off and does something like this. Shoot, if anything, this is a portrait on pansexual depravity, because they do pretty much everything in this film, which makes sense, because as you can see through "Salò, [u]or[/u] the 120 Days of Sodom", this film even has trouble deciding on which title to stick with, but the fact of the matter is that Pasolini had to have been a little messed up to come up with this. As a proud southern man, I am upset to say that I'm not surprised to find that a bunch of ignorant rednecks may have been responsible for this gay man's murder (They said it was because he was a "dirty communist", but you know that they were killing two birds with one car), although I am pretty surprised to find that the kind of rednecks who would do that were still sophisticated enough to visit Italy and know who the "artistic" Pasolini is. I like how Italy and France both had to team up in order to make this film come off as artistic, but if the two countries don't automatically make this film feel artsy, it's the fact that all of this sick stuff it going on, and yet the film is still boring. Shoot, forget simply being decent as a portrayal of indecency, because I think that this film might be as non-boring as it sort of is because it is so messed up, for there is plenty to challenge your attention, such as a lack of attention in characterization. The film is driven by its characters, inasmuch as its driven by their struggles, because when it comes to depths to characterization, there's surprisingly little said to humanize the focuses of this character, and no matter how compelling the performances are, your investment in the leads goes loosened by shortcomings in written humanization, just like your investment in the disturbances. I get what this film is going for, and it's not as though it's tremendously pornographic in its portrayal of graphic sexual depravity and violence, but this drama really isn't too much more than an onslaught of overtly disturbing material that is either fairly effective or grotesquely gratuitous (The climax really is just too much). These disturbances are at least frustrating in their factoring into subtlety issues, because as a portrait on the corruptibility of men of power and their questionable leading systems, this brutal affair has a tendency to beat you over the head with its themes, through all of the disturbances, as well as some abrasive set pieces. The value of this drama is betrayed by subtlety issues, and it's already limited by natural shortcomings to this merely minimalist narrative about poor, trapped souls enduring the unspeakable whose limited dynamicity takes a lot of meat out of a drama that tries so hard to sink its teeth into you. Of course, when the film isn't biting too tightly, it's simply dragging, for although two hours isn't a sprawling runtime, writers Pier Paolo Pasolini and Sergio Citti get there partly through excessive material and filler, while Pasolini, as director, makes it all the more palpable with dry spells in direction that range from simply limp to all-out dull. This film is not as slow as I feared it would be, despite my knowledge of the brutality of the premise, but it's still a challenge the ones patience, just as its a challenge to your endurance, made all the more difficult by questionable depths to exposition and subtlety. The final product is underwhelming, but not exactly forgettable, not simply because its content is so unique and thought-provoking, but because when it's effective it really does do a fair deal of justice to worthy, if grimy ideas. Not much goes on in this in underdeveloped, overtly disturbing and often unsubtle study on people of high power subjecting the innocent to degradation and torture, and in that sense, there are great natural shortcomings, but in truth, through all of the grime and pseudo-pornography is a study on the depravity and corruptibility of, not simply the powerful, but humanity itself that is important, and presented through a narrative that can at least be acknowledged for its sheer uniqueness. There may not be too much to this story, but it is original, and often genuine compelling, despite expository shortcomings, thanks to bona fide highlights in dramatic scripting by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Sergio Citti which molds some effective, if somewhat dehumanized characters, and is somewhat respectably unafraid to get disturbing. Sodomy, torture, dehumanization, famed excrement dining, and all sorts of other disturbing material is presented in full, brutal form throughout the film, and it's predominantly gratuitous, yet very often genuinely effective with its harrowing audacity, and with its thematic value, graced with some dramatic resonance by Pasolini's direction. Pasolini's storytelling is very often blandly dry, as well as overtly brutal, so it's not too much more tasteful than the lowlights in his and Citti's writing, but through anything from a noisy visual style to a gutsy attention to disturbing visuals, he establishes a biting sense of grit, and through moments of relative restraint, he brings the drama a surprising genuineness. No moment of resonance in this drama digs especially deep, but the fact of the matter is that there are some truly effective moments in this unnerving art drama, which could have been completely too grimy to be aesthetically effective, but has its moments of true impact. If nothing else anchors these occasions, it's the performances which bring more humanity to the characterization than the written exposition, for although the writing falls short, most every member in this cast - whether it be the portrayers of the depraved powerful, or the portrayers of the tortured, or the portrayers of those who accept, maybe even embrace horrifying realities - carries the charisma and dramatic layers needed to bring each role to life. The acting is as strong as any aspect of this film, but it's not the only thing worth commending in this drama, as there is enough realization to make this a fair, if, for multiple reasons, challenging drama. When the days are done, underdevelopment dehumanizes the characters and makes all the more disconcerting the overtly disturbing happenings which limit subtlety, just as momentum is limited by natural shortcomings and some dulling pacing issues, until the final product finally collapses as underwhelming, even with the important subject matter, audacious scripting and direction, and strong performances which manage to secure "Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom" as a flawed and overwrought, but ultimately adequately effective portrait on the brutality of humans, particularly those of power. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 28, 2013
    It took nearly 40 years, but we've gotten to a point in modern cinema where looking back on Pasolini's swan song is now a doable, not entirely nauseating task. An essential viewing for any prospective filmmaker.
    Kevin C Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2012
    'Salo' masquerades as some sort of political allegory, but the supposed subtext is just a tenuous excuse for covering a whole spectrum of perversity - it has no purpose apart from to shock and disgust.
    Jack H Super Reviewer

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