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Jean Pierre Lefebvre
J. Léo Gagnon,
A strange visitor in a wealthy family. He seduces the maid, the son, the mother, the daughter and finally the father before leaving a few days after. After he's gone, none of them can continue living as they did. Who was that visitor ? Could he be God ? Written by
Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. He is not generally recognized as such, but he ought to be and hopefully will be someday. At least in the world of cinema, he should have an equal position to any of the great masters.
Teorema is just one reason why. It's not my personal favorite Pasolini film, but it's easily one of the best films I've ever seen. Unlike my favorites, Mamma Roma, The Decameron, and Arabian Nights, Teorema is a highly abstract film imbued in symbolism. Not that there isn't symbolism in those other films. The difference is that, in Teorema, the human element is reduced. The characters in the film are symbolic members of a typical bourgois family, the mother, father, son, and daughter (and maid). One day a young man arrives at their home. Apparently they know him. They received a letter that he would be there, and they didn't think twice about it. This man (played by Terence Stamp) arrives during a party. When a friend asks the daughter who that boy is, she replies: "Just a boy."
Over the next few days, this "boy" seduces every member of the family. He seems angelic, offering help selflessly whenever anyone feels hurt or isolated or sick. He speaks little - indeed, there is hardly any dialogue in the entire film - but is always there for the needy. The film begins with a quotation from the Bible, meant to compare the bourgeosie to the Jews wandering lost in the desert after they escaped from Egypt. The mysterious boy, is he God?
Or, conversely, is he a golden calf? Or is he the devil himself? I was unsure of whether Stamp could play the character when I first read up on the film (I had read the first bit of the novel, written concurrently with the film by Pasolini, before I watched the film), but, as Teorema progressed, I realized that he was perfect. Stamp has a face hanging uniquely between evil and kind-hearted. His eyes are cherubic, but his grin is diabolical. What, exactly, is this young man here to do?
Well, I won't ruin it for you if you haven't seen it (plus, I think I've gone on enough). Suffice it to say that the revelations and effects that are brought out by the boy's presence are profound and quite brilliant. Anyone interested in European art films of the era owes it to themselves to see Teorema. If you are more into realism, especially if you didn't like Teorema, move onto Mamma Roma, The Gospel According to Matthew, and the Trilogy of Life (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights).
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