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A former member
Post #: 11
James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 25
Hmmm. All good questions. The film, which I haven't seen, seems to be interested in challenging the limitations of the repressive bourgeois family structure, with sexual intimacy acting as a sort of disruptive/creative force for change, if not for good as such. I think ultimately, repression is about being closed off to the possibility of connection with others, and this doesn't always have to be sexual (I suppose Freud would disagree) but can also be any kind of honest, open encounter. Just a random thought.
A former member
Post #: 29
You haven't seen Teorema, James? If you want, I can lend you the DVD some time.

Pasolini also wrote a book called Teorema as a companion piece to the film, spelling out his ideas at greater length. However, you're more or less batting in the right ballpark with your surmise of his themes, which engages ideas and concepts having to do with Gramscian Marxism, psychoanalytic "object relations" theory, and Gnostic theology.

Among many other things, the film is about how the modern bourgeoisie are qualitatively different from the rural peasantry and the subaltern peoples of the Third World, because the bourgeois have lost their faith in God. It is also a parable about how an unexpected, spontaneous and authentic religious experience can irrevocably transform and destroy people.

Of course, the narrative is rather cryptic and ambiguous, with both realistic and supernatural elements, leaving it open to a variety of interpretations. The Milanese bourgeois family is shown to exist in a spiritual and erotic void. Their lives are defined entirely by rigidly defined protocols and materialistic values, and as such, they are hopelessly alienated and cut off from the primal, archaic, elemental forces of nature, sex and God.

When the mysterious visitor arrives and seduces each member of the household, he acts as an agent of destruction. For he is an anarchic and unstoppable force that completely obliterates all of the false comforts and self-deceptions which constitute bourgeois life. As a consequence, the entire family is thrown into a crisis of loss and despair from which it can never hope to recover.

Having experienced real divine love and wholeness, each member of the family is now suddenly made aware of the emptiness and vanity of his/her previous life, and the loss of the visitor becomes hellishly unbearable. What is interesting is how each individual member of the family is changed and ultimately destroyed by this loss. In this sense, Teorema can be interpreted in psychoanalytic terms, as an allegory of subconscious "object relations" -- the abiding trauma caused by the loss of a primal love object in infancy (i.e., the "good breast" and the "bad breast").

The story can also be considered in Marxist terms, with the magical transformation that the visitor effects in each member of the family as a metaphor for the sudden burgeoning of a political consciousness. The final self-destruction of the family can likewise be seen as indicative of the essential decadence of the bourgeoisie. It is worth remembering that Teorema made its debut right at the height of the May 1968 protests in Paris, where it was regarded as a revolutionary work.*

Yet another view of Teorema is that it is a parable about Gnosticism...about the Demiurge who created the world and gave human beings the divine spark of life...but then, suddenly, mysteriously, abandoned His creation and left us to our own devices in a fallen state, perpetually imprisoned in our "evil" physical bodies and trapped in the "evil" world of physical matter. However, deep within each person there remains the divine spark that longs to be reunited with its absent Creator.

FOOTNOTE #1: Teorema contains an allusion to Arthur Rimbaud, Pasolini's favourite poet, when the visitor is sitting on the grass in the back of the family estate reading "Les Déserts de l'Amour", a prose-poem in which Rimbaud is pining for the love of a beautiful, enigmatic woman from the city and is finally left alone in despair. ("Les Déserts de l'Amour" would make an apt alternate title for Teorema -- as would "Seduced and Abandoned", if Pietro Germi hadn't used it first.)

Indeed, the visitor could be thought of as being like Rimbaud, who, as a teenager, had a fatal amour fou with the older poet, Paul Verlaine, when Rimbaud came to stay with him and his wife. After Rimbaud ruined Verlaine's respectable bourgeois marriage and life, Verlaine went insane, suffered horribly, became a drug addict and alcoholic, spent some time in prison and several hospitals, and eventually found God.

Rimbaud, meanwhile, had his own "Season in Hell" before finally giving up poetry at age 20 and wandered far from his provincial bourgeois origins in find his fortune as a gunrunner in the deserts of Abyssinia. Eventually, he returned to France and died from a cancerous leg tumor at age 37 in a hospital in Marseilles. According to his younger sister Isabelle, who was a devout Catholic, Rimbaud found God on his deathbed.

Interestingly enough, two years after Teorema, Terence Stamp played Rimbaud in Nelo Risi's 1970 film, Una stagione all'inferno ("A Season in Hell"); Jean-Claude Brialy played Verlaine.

FOOTNOTE #2: Anne Wiazemsky, who played the daughter, Odile, in Teorema, was a Parisian university student at the time with a keen interest in revolutionary Maoism. She married Jean-Luc Godard in 1967, and that same year played the lead role in Godard's film, La Chinoise, a prophetic satire about a revolutionary Maoist groupuscle discussing the necessity of terroristic violence and political assassination as a means to achieve revolutionary goals.

La Chinoise was loosely based on Dostoevsky's 1872 novel, The Devils (or The Possessed), about a revolutionary terrorist plot to assassinate the Tsar (the movie even features a character named Kirilov who makes the existential decision to commit suicide, just like in the novel).
James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 26
@ Jason - Spoiler alert biggrin I think The Devils is one of the books by FD I'd like us to read.

Reading your analysis, I'm reminded of how the mental circuitry that used to get such a workout when I was a student and lecturer has largely atrophied over the last decade - though you all have helped to revive it some. I do recall the fashion for trying to find some kind of synthesis between marxism and psychoanalysis, a/la Jameson's The Political Unconscious, among others, and these two powerful paradigms seem much more present in art then than now. Maybe it's just the noise generated by The 40-year Old Virgin and its clones. smile
James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 27
@Ee Lyn - Like to find out more about that three-layer cake sometime...
A former member
Post #: 30
@ Jason - Spoiler alert biggrin I think The Devils is one of the books by FD I'd like us to read.

Reading your analysis, I'm reminded of how the mental circuitry that used to get such a workout when I was a student and lecturer has largely atrophied over the last decade - though you all have helped to revive it some. I do recall the fashion for trying to find some kind of synthesis between marxism and psychoanalysis, a/la Jameson's The Political Unconscious, among others, and these two powerful paradigms seem much more present in art then than now. Maybe it's just the noise generated by The 40-year Old Virgin and its clones. smile

James, if you want us to read The Devils, then by all means....

Actually, the analysis of Teorema didn't just come off the top of my head. A lot has been written about Pasolini (and Pasolini was himself a prolific essayist and semiological theorist). I took a class on Pasolini 12 years ago at UBC.

In his book, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini's Film Theory and Practice, Maurizio Viano offers a purely semiotic deconstructionist interpretation of Teorema: i.e., the bourgeois family represents allegorical "signs in crisis" and the visitor is the destabilizing "Absolute", a "sort of unique God", a reality principle that the signs are forced to acknowledge. And in the film, sex is not merely sex, it "signifies transgression against the Law that regulates physical and intellectual processes alike" (Viano, p. 201).

Viano tells us that, even though Pasolini was a non-believer, he was reluctant to dispense with the idea of God in the semiological sense, because God represents "a longing for the Absolute". The desert in Teorema is like the desert in the Book of Exodus, where Pasolini believes the Jews first conceived God: the wilderness represents "reality stripped of everything but its essence, reality as represented by those who live and think of it, even if they are not philosophers" (Pasolini, Theorem, p. 197).

Viano again: "The richness and openness of Pasolini's work is the result of his intellectual piracy--that is, of his highly personal appropriation of different, seemingly contradictory, discourses, to define the role they had, and to manifest the traces they left." (Viano, p. 1).

Viano calls this set of (five) discourses Pasolini's "authorial intertext", which are Humanism, Catholicism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and homosexuality.

1. Humanism: Pasolini was a product of the Italian Renaissance Humanist tradition, going back to the fourteenth century, which regards the individual as a progressive, self-determining agent of history and civilization (e.g., Pico della Mirandola's De hominis dignitate ["Oration on the Dignity of Man"]).

2. Catholicism: Pasolini was born and raised in the archaic peasant tradition of his mother's religion. Although he became an atheist at a young age, Pasolini was nevertheless strongly attracted to the notion of "authentic religious feelings", which one finds among the peasantry and Third World populations, as the opposite of "bourgeois materialism". He was what a philosopher of religion might call a "non-theistic sacralist".

3. Marxism: Pasolini's concern with the "anthropological degradation" of the Italian rural peasantry and urban subproletariate, as well as the subaltern peoples of the Third World, by the totalizing forces of neocapitalism is heavily influenced by Antonio Gramsci's concept of egemonia ("cultural hegemony") as a social and ideological tool which bourgeois capitalists use to legitimize their power as a natural and normal state of affairs.

4. Psychoanalysis: In the 1960s, there was a fashion among intellectuals for synthesizing psychoanalytic ideas with revolutionary Marxism (e.g., Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization).

"Freudianism, like Marxism, constituted an attack on bourgeois ideology...Furthermore, Freud's emphasis on biological drives appealed to Pasolini's interest in 'physical necessities' as the source of cultural phenomena. Grounding the higher functions firmly in the flesh, Freudian psychoanalysis suited Pasolini's project of giving sexuality and the body their due. In this respect, Freud's theory of the id as something to be salvaged from the discontents of civilization runs parallel to the Marxist mythology of the heroic proletariat. Most important of all, Freud offered Pasolini a clear and coherent 'scientific' theory of the etiology and phenomenology of homosexuality" (Viano, p. 11).

5. Homosexuality: As a young man, Pasolini did make an effort to hide his homosexuality. However, this ended in 1949, when he was fired from his teaching job in the Friulian countryside and expelled from the Italian Communist Party for an alleged homosexual indiscretion at a village feast outside of San Vito al Tagliamento. Pasolini was force to move with his mother to the outskirts of Rome, where he lived among the urban subproletariate.

After long periods of poverty and unemployment, he began his career as novelist by the mid-1950s and eventually moved into filmmaking by the 1960s. During this time, Pasolini was often prosecuted for obscenity on account of the homoerotic content of his work. It is not inconceivable that, had the traumatic events of 1949 never happened, Pasolini's life and career may have turned out quite differently. Thus, Pasolini's own forced public acknowledgement if his homosexuality (his "outing", as it were) can be seen as a direct catalyst for his own emerging political consciousness as a member of oppressed and marginalized group.

Viano related Pasolini's "homosexual discourse" with his Freudianism and Marxism, and his abiding concern with representing the "reality" that existed outside of the sphere of bourgeois norms (i. e., the truly autonomous self-determining individual in the classical and Renaissance traditions, "authentic religious feelings", the Marxist proletariat, the Freudian id, the natural unspoiled physical body and homosexuality):

"If psychoanalysis provided him with the tools to talk about the body rationally, homosexuality gave him the certainty that the body is a purveyor of knowledge. Moreover, the homosexual discourse had inevitable repercussions on the way Pasolini regarded the oppressor/oppressed dialectic. It exposed Marxism's inadequacy in addressing sexual oppression and led him to highlight the private sphere as a terrain of struggle" (Viano, p. 15).

"It has been said that I have three heroes: Christ, Marx, and Freud. This is reducing everything to formulae. In truth, my only hero is reality."

--Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969.

A former member
Post #: 31
One of the many good things about Teorema is that it is probably the most accessible of Pasolini's mid-period films. Unlike his other works, there isn't a lot of graphic violence or sex; it is actually quite restrained. It isn't the graphic content so much as the tone and the style of the film that gets to you. The narrative is quite tightly constructed and overdeliberate, so the course of events unfolding seems eerily inevitable.

The contrast between the different film stocks (black-and-white, sepia-toned, and "normal" saturated colour) and the different music (the faintly creepy and ominous Ennio Morricone jazz score, Mozart's Requiem), the cutting back and forth between each character's daily business, and the fact that there is very little dialogue (the visitor appears to communicate with the family almost telepathically), is also unusual and unsettling.

Indeed, it is quite shocking how this ordinary repressed bourgeois family automatically self-destructs in short order after they have been liberated and abandoned by the visitor. But what is even more shocking is how starkly the family's spiritual wilderness is contrasted with the apotheosis of the deeply religious maid, who returns to her rural peasant village and performs miracles -- healing the sick, levitating about a farmhouse, and finally immolating herself in the earth as her tears regenerate the soil like those of a mater dolorosa. I don't think we expect to see the quiet despair of the bourgeoisie or the religious exaltation of the peasantry represented so matter-of-factly with such sincere force and conviction.
Regi M.
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 14
At 5:30 AM today, Sunday, I began watching Teorema. At about 7 AM, I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke, I knew everything! I used some spit to clean out my eyes, and I was no longer blind!

I spent the next 5 or 6 hours responding to the group work on "now and "becoming". The work was brilliant! Astonishing! Then I erased it with one mis-click. "The horror", as Mistah Kurtz would say.
While I was typing,however,my mind was also occupied with a response to the Teorema stuff.

I'll do the Teorema first, so I can feel some success, or hara kiri is a real possibility.

There is a current in Literature which echoes Pasolini's main theme. I take this theme as stated by Jason above: "...this ordinary repressed bourgeois family automatically self-destructs in short order after they have been liberated and abandoned by the visitor." I re-state it: "Society,as represented by _______________ will self-destruct after an experience which is alien and which threatens the status quo".

Three short stories will help to illustrate these thoughts.
"The Giraffe" is a short story by Italian Mauro Senesi. Some boys bring a giraffe to town. The giraffe is seen as a threat. In fact, it is in very much danger from the townsfolk, and from the inability of the boys to care for it. The giraffe "holds a mirror up to Nature" as Hamlet would say. Indeed, the mirror is flashed outward at the audience, as at the end of "Death and the Maiden". The threat could be a scientific theory, a new form of government, "differences" such as homosexualty, bisexuality...the list is endless. Are we ready as a society to change, to accept change, to adapt to change? Repeatedly, we prove the answer to be "no".

In the short story "Figure Over The Town" by Texas author William Goyen, a man sets himself up on a platform above a small town. He's a flagpole sitter. The townspeople grow increasingly fearful and began to torment him. His time "aloft" stretched into 40 days and 40 nights. Everyone in town had a different reason for his being up there. The mirror again reflected each person's guilt and fear. The young narrator becomes so disturbed, he dreams fitfully each night. His last dream ends with the ephemeral idea that the figure left his post in the night. Or was he taken forcefully?

"How lonely I felt under that mask." The narrator of "Laughter" could be the stranger in TeoremaPeople react to him, to his very presence. The author, Russian playwright Leopnid Andreyev,asked once "Who strikes man with love-God or the Devil?" The mask-wearer was so proud of his beautiful wondrous mask,but all it prompted in others was laughter, not love, respect, friendship. Was the stranger God? Or the Devil?
Let the stranger be anything alien to the status quo. Let that which is brought be sex,new ideas, new religions,new ...or frightening disturbances. Society will react out of fear.

A former member
Post #: 32
Here is a link to a Monty Python sketch called "The Third Test Match", which is a parody of Pasolini's style in Teorema.

If Pasolini made a movie about a cricket game, it might look like this:­
Regi M.
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 16
I have been reading and re-reading all the posts so often my brain hurts. Yes, I watched Teorema. I posted my memories of other stories which used the 'Stranger' trope to challenge established groups. I have also read much criticism,analysis,and biography of Pasolini.
Now I need to stop and ask how did this get started? It comes from Last Exit to Brooklyn, right?
OK Sex is a part of the human condition. Arguably, one of the "basic needs"-usually included by Maslow and others as intimacy or social interaction or caring which need not include intercourse. Freud, of course,moves a tiny baby quite quickly into stages of sexual needs,activity, experimentation,repression,... It seems as if Last Exit and Theory are found here-and say something about sex being "everything". After their encounters, the family does not eat,sleep, communicate-the boy even urinates in an unorthodox manner. They are disturbed.
What has disturbed the Last Exit-ers? Poverty. Ignorance. Illiteracy. Disenfranchisement.
Hey-we are done with this book,right?
Sunday after my nap, caused by watching Teorema I came upon a movie from 2012 called "Nobody Walks". A young woman arrives in a home. She is seductive and is seduced(?) by the Husband. Everything falls apart,the sexual lives of five or six family members are challenged, and the last line of the film comes from the Wife, who tells the young woman that the family will never hear from her or see her again. There are so many similarities, I was astounded. Somehow, however,there is hope in this story. There must be compromise and struggle, but things might be OK. I wonder if the Wife's strength is what does it?
The movie is from Sundance 2012. Please read:

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