“My hatred for the bourgeoisie is not documentable or arguable. It’s just there and that’s it. But it’s not a moralistic condemnation; it is total and unmitigated, but it is based on passion, not on moralism. Moralism is a typical disease of part of the Italian left, which has imported typical bourgeois moralistic attitudes into Marxist, or at any rate communist, ideology.”
Pier Paolo Pasolini1
“The train station sequence is important not only in its illustration of a key aesthetic strategy in the film, but also because it reveals how vitally important it was for Pasolini to conceive of homosexuality as primarily an alterity, not an identity. This is important not only in order to avoid producing a ‘vulgar’ reading of the film, in which a simple historicism connects the Reichian currents of sexual liberation rife in the late-sixties to the ‘theme’ of the film. In fact – something that Maurizio Viano notes quite well in his analysis of the film – Teorema is centered more on the ‘crisis of the sign’ than the crisis of the bourgeois family (though of course the project is to somehow show the inevitable interconnection between the two). For this reason, the camera’s lingering on the genitals of the Terence Stamp character throughout the first third of the film is not constructed as a simple representation of sexual desire but as the very center of the crisis underlying all the characters’ lives. In this sense, the character of Terence Stamp – who arrives and departs like the annunciating angel – is an apparition, is indeed the phallus itself. This gives us a way to understand the remarkable charge contained in the shot of Stamp’s clothes strewn across the room: especially the unzipped pants that evoke both absence and presence. It is the encounter with ‘the absent cause’ that drives all the characters into positions of radical alterity and that renders any connection to the social impossible.”
“Pasolini equates the new consumerist culture (the bourgeois culture) with a new form of fascism. This cultural hegemony (consumerism) constantly reproduces conformism, which in Italy emerged immediately after the war. Can we read his film Teorema (1968) from this perspective, that of emerging consumerism in Italy? Although the film has no ‘real center’, not much dialog, thus leaving the spectator to construct the ‘dialog’ him/herself. Perhaps what Pasolini called the poetics of cinema is best expressed in Teorema. Some scholars have interpreted this film in a Machiavellian-Marxist sense. Pasolini’s critique of the corrupt and decadent Italian middle-class family is best exemplified by the doings of young man, played by Terence Stamp.”
Sure, what else do young, intelligent
kids from well-off families do except
talk about literature and painting?
Maybe even with lower-class friends
− a little rougher, but also more tormented
by ambition? Talk about literature and painting,
sly and seditious, ready to upset everything,
already starting to warm up with their little
two barstools already warmed by the asses of the
What do the kids of 1968 talk about − with their
barbaric hair and Edwardian suits,
in a vaguely military style, that cover unhappy
cocks like mine,
except about literature and painting? And what
does this do except evoke from the darkest
depths of the petit bourgeoisie the
exterminating God, who strikes them once again
for sins even greater than those committed in ’38?
Only we bourgeois know how to be thugs,
and the young extremists, skipping Marx and
at the flea market, do nothing but shriek
like generals and engineers against generals and
It’s an internecine struggle.
Someone who would really die of consumption
dressed like a muzhik, not yet sixteen
he might perhaps be the only one in the right.
The rest cut each other’s throats.
Pier Paolo Pasolini4
- 1Oswald Stuck, Pasolini on Pasolini (London: Indiana University Press, 1969), 26.
- 2Angelo Restivo, The Cinema of Economic Miracles. Visuality and Modernization in the Italian Art Film (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2002), 91.
- 3Agon Hamza, Althusser and Pasolini. Philosophy, Marxism, and Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 155.
- 4Pier Paolo Pasolini in an appendix to his novel Teorema [Quoted in Bart Davis Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 2017), 485-486.]