Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
348 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
One of the most gruelling films ever made
world_of_weird17 January 2005
Pier Paolo Pasolini, as is well known, was murdered not long after he finished work on this, his most audacious and confrontational film, yet even the most casual viewing of SALO begs the question - had he not been murdered, would he have taken his own life anyway? Every sequence, every shot and practically every moment of this film is so burdened with despair, barely concealed rage and a towering disgust with the human race, one gets the impression that Pasolini was barely hanging onto life - and any attendant shreds of hope - by his fingernails. Although ostensibly an adaptation of one of DeSade's most depraved works channeled through the horrifying excesses of the Second World War with the Fascist ruling classes as its (authentically vile) villains, SALO also contains a lot of contemporary criticism - Pasolini hated the modern world, and explained the stomach-churning 'banquet of s**t' as a none-too-subtle attack on the encroaching global domination of the fast food chains. (The scenes of sexual excess can similarly be read as a despairing attack on the permissive society - those who come to SALO expecting titillation or B-movie sleaze will be sorely disappointed.) Beyond the nihilistic content, which has been well documented elsewhere, the film has an overall mood that seems to have been engineered to make the viewer thoroughly depressed. Shot on washed-out, faded film stock using primarily static cameras, long shots, choppy editing and very few cutaways, SALO has a visual style reminiscent of cinema-verite documentary. Add to this the unnerving use of big band music, piano dirges and the (intentionally?) scrappy post-dubbed dialogue, and the distancing effect on the viewer is complete. SALO comes across as one long primal scream of rage, designed to shake the viewer out of his complacency, and in this respect, the film succeeds unequivocally. Whether or not you would care to watch this more than once, or indeed for 'entertainment', is another matter, but SALO is an important film that demands a careful viewing ONLY by those prepared for it.
568 out of 640 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Don't judge this film too quickly.
marcopop30 April 1999
It appears most people find this movie to be sick, pointless, and without substance. That's unfair.

This is the strongest movie I've ever seen, and it made an IMPORTANT impression on me, a big horrorflick-devotee. It made me question a lot of things about former favourite films, and made me realize how sick it is to make horror and violence into entertainment. The problem with most movies is that violence is not portrayed violent enough, horror isn't portrayed horrible enough. Most 'thriller' films have these ingredients softened so that people can enjoy it, and THAT'S sick. This movie is SANE. It shows horror and violence as it IS - totally revolting and disgusting.

I sat as on needles for 1 hour 40 minutes, and felt really bad watching this film. It grossed me out, but I understood why this film is both good and important. It gives a sane perspective on violence, as opposed to SICK, SICK Hollywood-action where people get killed by 'heroes' and nobody raises an eyebrow.
1,021 out of 1,188 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Film of Rage and Sadness
BackFire8329 May 2007
Salo, the final film by Pasolini, is far and away the most affecting film I've ever seen of it's type. The images that it shows will stay with every viewer forever, they are unforgettable. Yet, you will wish you could forget them.

The film is about a group of rich Fascists during WWII-Nazi Occupied Italy, where they kidnap a group of 18 youngsters, allowing only physically perfect specimins to stay, and subject them to various forms of mental, physical and sexual torture over the next 120 Days. The torture starts off in a sexual nature--Sodomy, rape, humiliation and so on-- and slowly degrades and descends into mental and physical torture. Just when you think what you are seeing can't get worse, it does, ten-fold.

What makes Salo so brutally shocking and disturbing is its uncompromised and blunt way of showing the acts of horror. It is a very quiet and slow film, mostly shot using static and still cameras, it feels more like a documentary than a fictional film. It's clear upon viewing, that Pasolini wanted to remind us all that violence should not be entertainment. As such, every act of violence and degredation is drained of all its possible energy and excitement, and shown in a sad, painful light. Nothing is sugar coated, nothing is softened. This film is an attack on our desensitized feelings towards violence. Yet, at the same time, the film purposely desensitizes us to certain acts -- Such as rape. We see it so much during the film that it becomes "normality" to us, we barely raise an eyebrow. Upon realizing this, one also realizes how the horrible acts shown in the film are possible, and it's a terrible realization.

Salo continues to descend until at the end, when we are taken to the punishing grounds, where various rule breakers are tortured and murdered. This final sequence is the most harrowing and effective I've ever seen in a film. As the victims are tortured and murdered, each one of the fascist rulers take turns as voyer, watching from a second story window, far enough away to not hear the screams of terror and pain. And we watch with him. The film attempts to equate our viewing of this film to their viewing of the executions, after all, we're watching these acts for "entertainment", just as he is. And we distance ourselves from the acts in order to enjoy them, as he does by watching through binoculars far away. It's a savage and truthful attack, one that is impossible to deny.

Also incredibly unsettling is the inherent joy that the villains (Heroes?) feel at their victims pain, sadness and discomfort. Sometimes even to the point of sexual arousal. There is a scene where a girl is crying because her mother died trying to save her from these people. She is completely naked as she weeps, to us, she's the picture of vulnerability and sadness, to the fascists, it's the most exciting thing they've seen all day. The fascists all stand and watch her weep with the utmost sexualexcitement. It is terrifying. It's scenes like these that set Salo apart from other "gross out" movies. Some of the most affecting and frightening scenes are ones where there is quiet, watching the expressions and reactions of people to the various horrible acts.

Salo is a film of rage and sadness. It is a film that asks you to hate humanity, to hate what we're capable of; to look in the mirror and hate yourself. Then weep because nothing can be done about it. Nothing will ever change..
247 out of 283 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the roughest films you'll ever see.
futures-16 June 2005
"Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom" (1975): Be prepared for one of the roughest films you'll ever see. This was Pasolini's last, and going by what I've seen, his vision only became bleaker and more disturbed as the years clawed along. Using the Marquis de Sade's ideas on the decadence of 18th century France, Pasolini represents Fascist Italy (1944-45). We are shown the upper class – always removed and protected from the outer world – as predators of the poor, weak, young, and less educated. A group of wealthy adults shop amongst the kidnapped older children of bourgeoisie. They choose eighteen, and steal them away to a hidden mansion, where there is no escape. There, the adults live out every twisted fantasy they've ever had or can now muster, while demeaning, raping, and torturing the youngsters. The teens react in many ways, none of which are "pretty". This entire film experience MUST be viewed as a symbolic, emotional "explanation" of what it was like to live under Nazi/Fascist rule (in this case), and how an otherwise normal, decent society could be turned into lunatics and sub-animals. Although made 30 years ago (with the usual weaker production qualities of that era), I cannot think of another work which so blatantly and painfully illustrates what those in power are capable of doing when boredom gives rein to impulse. In comparison, "Lord of the Flies" barely lights upon these issues, "Pink Flamingos" was but a tiny, kitschy springboard, and "Schindler's List" described a much narrower range of degradation. To this day, "Salo: …" is banned in some countries. This is NOT a film about acting, lighting, sound, camera work, etc.. This is a film about states of mind – theirs then, ours now. P.S.: If you are interested in set design, this one is FILLED with original Cubist/Bauhaus/Futurist/Moderne furnishings, murals, and art. Spectacular. Those styles were not yet being reproduced, so Pasolini used the real thing. There is also an interesting use of a Charles Rennie MacIntosh chair…which will alter how you see this design from here on out.
236 out of 290 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
maxbemba24 March 2001
Reportedly, when the executives of one, now defunct, American film company saw "Saló", which they helped co-finance and had distribution rights on, they were so disturbed and embarrassed that they didn't know what to do. Are we going to release this thing? With our company name on it? Where?

They had to show that they released it somewhere in the U.S. or territories.

So they did. In a small theater in El Condado area near San Juan, Puerto Rico.

There's where I saw it. In the mid-70's. With the film company's name on it.

Is it any good? Well, I'm no great admirer of Pasolini. Frankly, I find his movies intolerable. And "Saló" is no exception. But, unlike his Trilogy of Life ("The Decameron", "Canterbury Tales", "Arabian Nights") where he at least displayed some flair and humor, this one is a different animal.

His style was always somewhat ponderous. In "Saló" it is heavily, oppressively didactic: static tableaux-style framing, a deliberately slow pace, no humor whatsoever, and actors who don't play characters but conceits. Although Pasolini uses De Sade's "120 Days of Sodom" as scaffolding and as a pointed commentary, "Saló" is actually based on real events that happened in the Republic of Saló in Northern Italy, where a group of wealthy fascists abducted a large group of young men and women, went on to debase them, and after they were done with them they killed them. Pasolini staged all the scenes as demonstrations of degradation and cruelty. And he does not flinch.

At the end he includes a bibliography.

It's an unpleasant experience.

Clearly, Pasolini, an award-winning poet and one of the leading intellectuals of his time, was very angry when he did this moving picture. He wanted to send a message to Italy and to the world.

It was his last film.

Months later he was murdered.

After several weeks of being in release, the theater was raided by our local vice authorities.
67 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A masterpiece but will never watch again
valefonta29 November 2019
The movie is, from an artistic point of view, a masterpiece unique in its kind. It is extremely well thought and reflects about power and the darkest side of humanity. However, the movie is extremely rough, definitely not for everyone. Although artistically excellent, the movie left me with a strong feeling of disgust. But aren't the best movies the ones that really do transmit you an emotion? This movie is a must watch and will mark you forever, even if, at times, you would want to forget it.
32 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A necessary evil
dennis7016 March 2005
This is a tough one. Pasolini was a very complicated man. He was murdered in still-unexplained circumstances shortly after the film was completed. I was 10 years old when this movie was finished, but I only saw it now. Despite being almost 30 years old, Salo is probably the most cruel and repulsive film ever made, not just here in Italy but in the whole world. It depicts the worse atrocities inflicted to humans by humans. The true dark side of human nature: When evil is born out of simple boredom, when it comes naturally. It is a film that I don't want to see ever again, but at the same time I'm glad it was made. I thought hated it at first, but I now I realized is not true. Of course I don't love it either. I can't decide how to judge it. I don't like the cinematography or the acting. But it was definitely one of the most profound emotional experiences of revulsion I've had in a film. It is a necessary evil if you can endure it.
298 out of 395 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fascism via De Sade
odishon2722 November 2005
I'm going to keep this short. If you want to see Salo simply to see what all the hype is about, keep your $600. Or rent it. If you can find it. I happen to own the Criterion release that is now being ripped and sold on Ebay for $400-600 bucks. Is it worth it? No. Is any film? No. Is it an excellent film? Absolutely.

Try not to think of Pasolini's masterpiece as a shock-for-shock's sake project and you'll truly understand the horror that is Salo. While the depiction of violence, sodomy, corpophagia, eye-gouging, scalping, nipple burning with candles, etc. etc. is horrific it is Pasolini's treatment of the boys and girls that is much more horrifying.

The monsters that occupy this small space of two hours, the fascists, are more human that their victims. We are given no insight into the lives of these children, while we are shown at great length the heads of state personal histories and sadistic proclivities.

Salo has stood the test of time because of it's unflinching portrayal of human violence and idealism, and the fact that, as the Criterion collection states: "Moral redemption may be nothing but a myth." Be warned: for many, Salo is a film not easily shaken off after a single viewing.
163 out of 239 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not a Film about Fascism at all
Ariel622 November 2001
Pasolini made it quite clear in several texts that this is not an anti-fascist film, but rather that fascism is a symbol for something far more pervasive. He ultimately saw himself as a committed director, and thus all of his historical films are about the present, and this film was made in the 70's, not in the 40's. It is rather an anti-bourgeois film. (Pasolini's political enemies at the time were not fascists at all, but the Christian Democrats)...Furthermore it is NOT a defense of Sade, but an apology for his earlier writings and films which mythicized acts of violence and glorified them as the pure, unconscious, pre-verbal expression of the subproletariat. However Pasolini saw the riots of the bourgeois students in 1968 as nihilistic acts of revolt, not revolution--a revolt of the Bourgeoise against itself, as his poetry makes clear. He watched in horror as he saw his vision of true revolution twisted into a childish and merely destructive tantrum against the previous generation. And so it is the Bourgeoise, symbolized by Fascism, which he represents and condemns in Salo, in the guise of what he considered to be a medieval morality play. And it is in this context that he apologizes for having made statements like "Only a bloodbath can save the world" (1962), which is quoted in the film. Yet, like everything else, it has been appropriated by the bourgeoise, who misinterpret it first as Nietzsche, then as St. Paul, until it gets reduced to a merely absurdist Dada interpretation. The characters are continually misinterpreting the many structuralist citations, because they have no history. History has been destroyed, and thus Pasolini is trying to re-introduce it in the film. The revolution, by 1968, was impossible, as there was nobody left to fight it. The bourgeoise, Pasolini lamented, had subsumed everything into itself-there was no "other", only a technological god-like and all-inclusive power structure. But what is most shocking is that it is the Sadean libertarianism and the permissivness of that class that Pasolini finds most disturbing. He held that the permissiveness of the "anarchy of power" was more tyrannical than repression. He was most traumitized, oddly, by the increasing tolerance of homosexuals. And so truely Pasolini takes the side of Dante, not Sade. And finally, its ultimately a film about misinterpretation. What the characters say and what they do (as in Sade) are incongruent. He knew that he was to be misunderstood by his Bourgeois audience, as it misunderstood itself, Pasolini said that it was intrinsic that Salo remain enigmatic (on the model of Dante), and this is the film's real genius. Judging by most of these reviews, Pasolini made his point.
46 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"A disturbing masterpiece"
StevePulaski27 July 2012
Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is among the sickest and most depraved films I have yet to see. It is also among one of the most intellectual and artistic. For a film seemingly constructed on elements that are artless and unforgivable, the man himself has created a feisty political allegory, capable of self expression, impressionism, and heavy interpretation. Things I would've never expected from a film that has been banned and outlawed in several different countries.

When compared to recent torture porn films, or even those that date back several years or decades ago like Cannibal Holocaust or the distasteful and horrendous August Underground, it is shocking to stumble upon a film that features sodomy, sexual humiliation, torture, manipulation, cruelty, depravity, fascism, totalitarianism, graphic rape, homosexuality, and voyeurism all in the same film. Let alone a film that gets a recommendation by me. This is a recommendation like no other I have given. I'm recommending this to the willing, the brave, and the cinephiles. The ones who won't immediately attack it as a piece of Italian shock cinema or depravity without a purpose, but those who are prepared to judge it as a piece of commentary and cinematic art. Bringing this up in a casual conversation like you would do a majority of films, and you may have lost yourself a friend.

The film focuses on the Republic of Salò in Italy, circa 1944, right after the fall of the Mussolini government, where four corrupt libertines kidnap nine boys and nine girls and subject them to four months of extreme sexual acts, acts of torture, sodomy, and ones that will test their physical and mental health. They are taken to a place in Marzabotto, where they spend their days in a luxurious palace, either committing several hateful acts or listening to descriptive stories about prostitute's sexual encounters.

The film is divided into four different "circles," which are taken from the book The 120 Days of Sodom, by the Marquis de Sade. While the film features a plethora of nudity, it is anything but erotic. Instead it is cold, numbing, and aggressively unpleasant. We watch as unspeakable acts such as coprophagia occur and we, as audience members, can not help but question the fascist's motivations.

But that is just it; there are none. Like many films about a brutally corrupt and dictative government, Battle Royale instantaneously comes to mind, there are no justifications. There are, however, a number of things that are symbolic about the world around us that we can either choose to explore and question or ignore and bury deep in our heads. The corrupt fascists obviously represent dictators of the time, such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, while the young adolescents forced to partake in these soul-crushing events represent the victims of the Holocaust. The soldiers who are constantly guarding the teenagers and assuring they don't escape could possibly be the loyal followers of the dictators that go along with the pack leader, despite personal feeling and or opinions.

And then there you are - the viewer - the person who is acting as a voyeur during the events of the film. Pasolini knows exactly how he wants his audience to feel and that is guilty, unsettled, frightened, terrified, vulnerable, and most of all, voyeuristic. He blatantly calls you out for it at the end of the picture, where you become one with the corruption, laughing numbingly at the events taking place behind stone walls.

The film looks like someone along the lines of Wes Anderson or Haskell Wexler picked up a camera and filmed the most provocative and inhuman shots this side of the earth. Aesthetically speaking, Salò is an intricately made picture, delicately crafted and maturely handled, with painstaking detail in every shot and elegance in every frame, even when acts of the complete opposite nature are occurring. With the use of some stellar piano music as well, this is a film that boasts all the features of a vivacious melodrama, but has all the characteristics of a seriously haunting snuff film.

It is apparent that people will have different reactions to the film. Some will feel visually manipulated and appalled. Some will be stained and irreversibly shaken. Some will shut it off halfway through. Others will brave through the excursion and then question why they did. But some will see the brave qualities and ambition it took to make such a film, one that toys with the audience and then boldly criticizes them afterwards. It is noted that Pasolini, one of the many directors I need to explore, became severely depressed before venturing into this territory of filmmaking, and saw all of his films as worthless and overly-compromised, and would make a film focusing on things of an explicit nature, before being brutally murdered. I conclude with the statement that if you're optimistic and curious enough, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is a film to see. Just prepare yourself with the proper mindset that this is a film that should be known for its graphic detailing of political commentary and allegories and not one of its inadvertently subversive and inhuman material.

Starring: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo, Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti, and Caterina Boratto. Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini.
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Best of Pasolini
andersngr17 November 2003
I strongly recommend this film to anyone over age 15. The main storyline is taken from De Sade and gives the story its elements of nihilism and sexual extravagance.

The setting in a rural villa outside the plagued Florence with prostitutes as storytelling muses is taken from Boccacio's Decameron, the first book written in Italian and not in Latin, thus beeing one of the indicators of the italian renaissance. The renaissance allowed the focus to somewhat move from God towards Man.

The film is furthermore divided into sections, called circles, which is a direct parallell to Dante's Divine Comedy. This may be the second most important book after the Bible and describes a journey from the Purgatory, through the deepest caves of the Inferno, that finally ends in Heaven.

This is the literary fond of the story: De Sades lust, Boccacios splendid, isolated, depraved bourgeoise and Dantes symbolic re-birth and claims for his loved one Beatrice. I would also add a biblical-galenical flirt with the four "apocalyptic" body fluids, even if Pasolini uses s*** instead of gall.

The Boccacio villa is moved to the late WW2 Salo republic in Italy, where Mussolini had his last stronghold. The orchestrators of the ritual orgys that are to take place is party of middle aged men (a metaphor for the society?), deeply devoted to their mission to set up a blasphemic drama. The actors are kidnapped youths that are brought to the stage partly as decoration (objects) and partly to be actors in the play (subjects). However, as the individuals seek the transition from object to subject, they walk a thin line. The climax of the drama is the cleaning process (the punishment in the yard) where disobedience and breaking of rules must be paid for. Of course with lethal consequnces. In the play directed by the Libertins there are only black and white, and the only way to pay for your sins is with death. Of course the rules are totally inverted from the standards of society: Right is wrong.

Pasolini follows in his graphical expression the latin theater tradition, a direct communication with the audience. Pasolini wants to draw things to their ultimate end. Thats why he have to use the very strong ingredients that he does. Well, pehaps he could have made it less extreme but I believe that he did'nt want to compromise the least. Therefore this film deserves the uttermost respect.

See it, be disgusted if you must, but then ask yourself why you react like you do. If the sheer thought of the film fills you with repugnancy, then behold that your body contains both blood and s***, and realize that what is considered as insanities and atrocities today may be the norm of society tomorrow. Then ask yourself again why this is an important film and a milestone in the art of filmmaking.
16 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This film is a political act. Don't buy the lies.
Mattydee7429 May 2001
It is pointless, insulting, and redundant to buy into the defence/condemnation dynamic that Pier Paolo Pasolini's testament so snidely provokes and invites. In making what will remain one of the darkest and most vicious films ever made, Pasolini's bleak vision at the time of this films production in 1975 wanted to make the point that we are not free. We are limited by social restraints and political conditioning which makes us no better than the victims in this powerful, shattering cinema experience. That Pasolini was murdered by a male hustler in JFK-worthy circumstances - before he had time to utterly complete and polish the film - is an apt reminder of the forces of censorship and their merciless, cruel satisfaction in maintaining blank and reprehensible silences.

I refuse to join in the disinfecting and antiseptic treatments that people calling themselves supporters have applied to this film. There are moments of eroticism, beauty and even dark humour in this film and those who seek to castrate and deny Pasolini his humanity and complexity by pretending otherwise are naive if not duplicitous with those who placed this film in the category of "banned" in Australia. To deny Pasolini the distinction of having created a multiple, difficult film with various levels of engagement is to reduce his profound legacy.

Pasolini made this film to make people think hard and harshly and to contemplate themselves. The darkness of the cinema is part of that indictment and denying Pasolini this space for his film is pure evil. He was a disgusted and angry man and this film shares the passions, disapointments and loves of Pasolini. He wanted to change things. To help people. To provoke and make us ponder and contemplate ideas and arguments. That some will not is no revelation. But this is not some far off distant story - Salo is a political electric shock treatment as relevant today and tommorrow as upon its initial release (or non-release as may be the case). Its his most lavish and grand film and also his most personal. Throughout the film we are reminded that this microcosm of society implicates us - our surveillance of the events in this film is an act of violence and violation. Words are weapons wielded by the Duke and his merry bandits as they systematically annihilate the young people under their pointless control.

Pasolini is throwing Salo at us with the pride and courage of a protestor throwing excrement at a politician. This film is a political act. Australia is as dangerous a country as those demonised "foreign" countries with more extreme , exploitable examples of political censorship. Thankfully this film is available in Australia from certain sources but it remains denied its rightful place in the cinema theatre and general, legal release. But at least it can still be seen. The resistance continues. Like the young man who raises his arm in salute against his captors in Salo in the most dire and deadly circumstances. I do the same to Pasolini in less deadly but no less dire circumstance. To one of our greatest modern philosophers and visionaries, Pier Paolo Pasolini, we should be truly thankful.
227 out of 360 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Salo is now, Gladio is real
myboigie25 December 2005
So you say you've seen nearly-every major Italian-giallo? You've seen Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Michele Soavi, and even all the "classics" of Italian-film? Leone, Fellini, DeSicca, Bertolucci, Martino, and even most of the "world-classics"? By this point, you've probably seen-it-all, and you think there is no film that will shock you? If you haven't seen Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salo", you are wrong. Pasolini didn't even live to see the film widely-released--he was murdered by a male-hustler (or so the official-story plays). Pier Pasolini was the most-important post-war intellectual in Italy, period. Like a Renaissance polymath, he was adept at journalism, the novel, poetry, screen writing, directing motion-pictures, and more. His revolutionary-philosophy was against fascism and communism, and he had many enemies in the political-arena, as well as the religious. All-said, however, it's likely that Pier Pasolini was murdered by a right-wing assassination-team under the aegis of "gladio", a NATO program of secret-armies through Western Europe. Gladio began, ostensibly, as a defense-against a hypothetical Soviet-invasion of Europe, but was used to attack legitimate Leftist political-parties and groups. The Red Brigade bombings in the 1970s were even instigated-by gladio-operatives to justify a law-and-order crackdown of the Italian Communist Party--it is a mystery as to how-much CIA-influence this all had. The P-2 conspiracy (oddly, involving the Vatican, the CIA, KGB, and renegade Freemasons!) had yet-to-break. There were dozens of politically-motivated killings in 1970s-Italy, and Pasolini's was one-of-many. One has to wonder how-much involvement the Vatican had in his murder, as well.

And so, "Salo" enters this bloody-fray. It could not be any more controversial on all-fronts, and is a shout-of-rage against how little we all care about human-life itself. Pasolini was outraged and disappointed with the human-condition, and Italian politics had become chaos--leading Sergio Leone to remark at the time that, "Italian politics have become ridiculous." The scenario of Salo is fairly-simple: a group of Italian-fascists retreat to a palace in Northern Italy (where there was a great-deal of support for Italian fascism and the Monarch) with a group of sixteen boys and girls. It is the short-lived Republic of Salo, hence the title that any Italian of the 1970s would recognize. For 120-days, they degrade them in almost every-imaginable-way. Gay-rape, buggery, forcing people to eat-excrement, and finally, death. Of course, it's all based-loosely on DeSade's tale and stays pretty-closely to the text's themes and scenarios. He "chapters" each section with some of the structure of Dante's "Inferno", which is genius. To say this film is merely a statement on fascism would be wrong, it is a manifesto on what cruelty rests within all human-hearts. Pasolini understood that, under the right-circumstances, we are all capable of these depredations. Some reviewers have stated they didn't find the film shocking--they should check-themselves into a clinic somewhere. I've noticed that even friends who are into such directors as Takashi Miike, respect the power of this film. Miike has some similarities-in-style with Pasolini, but goes for a more genre, stylized-look. Even John Waters lists this film as sicker than his worst-offenders! To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

Besides being pretty sick, this film looks pretty-good. The late Tonnino Colli's (who also worked-for Fellini and Leone) photography lends the film a look that could be hung in the Louvre, and it gives the film a greater subversive-edge. It should be noted that the film is not "legitimately-available" in the United State for copyright reasons. However, there are very-good copies out-there since it is not in-print. I found one that is an exact-duplicate of the original US-edition for a decent-price, so it is out there, with some searching. The Criterion edition is reportedly the most-expensive DVD in the world, going for as-much as $600.00 USD. Criterion's is the best-transfer we have to-date. I've got a few Ken Russell DVDs ("Salome's Last Dance")that are worth as-much as $300.00 USD, so this is a shocker! It's funny to see used DVDs of the big Hollywood-fare at $3.99 USD, while these are in-the-hundreds! It says-a-lot about what is lasting and meaningful to people, and it ain't blockbuster movies. A company called "Water Bearer" has sets of Pasolini's other works, but I have it on good-word that they are inferior-quality. It would be nice if Criterion did a Pasolini Box that included a newer-transfer of "Salo" with restoration. It is one of the most-important films ever made. We all stand-accused, even the filmmaker, and that's the point. Be warned: not for children or adults who fear soul-searing, raw-existentialism.

NOTE: The "ass-judging-scene" is similar to photos of the "flesh-pyramid" at Abu-Ghraib.
179 out of 281 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's not necessarily a film, per say, as it is an endurance test...
Quinoa19848 July 2004
...meaning that if a viewer can stay tuned, as I could, through the "Circle of Sh*t" segment, then a viewer can sit through just about anything that's on celluloid. It's indeed appropriate that it's called the most disturbing and disgusting film ever made, as it well could be. As I watched all the way through till the end I got the same feeling as I did watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Both films go out on a limb with excesses (although Gibson's excesses were arguably not as faithful to the source as Pasolini was), and I have to say that at least from an objective point of view Pier Paolo Pasolini gets the job done there. With great cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli (Once Upon a Time in the West) providing the sometimes exquisite camera-work and lighting, Ennio Morricone delivering a slight, but melodic tone in the background, and with interesting sets, plus an interesting editing style that doesn't entirely show as much of the grotesque and sex as it could've, the craft behind the film is pretty good. If one were to look past the subject matter, it's actually a very well constructed piece of film art, which is why many consider it important.

I suppose it's a unique film, but you couldn't pay me to want to watch it again (unless it was in a film class where the teacher proved himself to have reason to have us watch it). At the core, Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, is interesting as a concept, from which it was taken from Sade's novel - a group of f*cked up fascists during the end of world war two capture some young boys and girls and force them to go under sexual and mental tortures. As in the book (which I've never read and don't really have a desire to seek out at this point in my life), the acts are relentless, and in between the fascists instilling fear and intense degradation, a woman narrates stories that go over and over as she describes everything from eating excrement to helping out a grown man in diapers. By the end, it's a controlled chaos as most are dead and those who aren't look on with binoculars. Now, the problem is with this material, at least for me, it becomes very subjective.

I can see the core point PPP's making (it's almost like a twisted satire), and it does remind me how much fascism is the worst kind of ideology there is on Earth...But then the relentlessness of it all becomes very, very close to unbearable (i.e. endurance test). And, reminding me again of 'The Passion', Salo doesn't give any of the characters any other kinds of emotions to work in than those they're stuck with. There's no deviating from the paths and fates of the characters, and without any point of entry into the victims (the exclusion being two girls, who all they say are 'I can't take this anymore' to each other), they're left with the controlled state that the villains have put them in. I suppose the acting by these four, vicious bastards is commendable, but after a while the acts that they thrust upon the kids stops being shocking, and becomes boring. And when a film that is supplied with a talented crew and cast that does whatever PPP tells them to do, and it's boring, it doesn't work for me. The stories by the one woman, in-particular, tend to drag on as her character seems to just think up new ways to entice the heads of the manor into ecstasy. On top of this, there isn't logic to history because if this is towards the end of the war, where are the allies putting a stop to the fascists?

I guess, in the end, I found Salo to be one of the more difficult films I've ever seen. I know I'm sort of glad I got through with it, but by the end I realized that PPP committed a bit of a film crime (though certainly not deserving of his mysterious death before the film was released) - there's no room for catharsis. This could be argued by some, however I'd have to say that if there was one it was buried underneath all of the sh*t food and *ss raping. Because the film is a bit one-dimensional, and hope is a lost cause, by the end all one could reasonably be left with is emptiness. In a way it reminded me of Bergman's Cries and Whispers in how it's just a sea of bleakness and despair for everyone involved, but at least in Bergman's bleak world there are moments of sweet (if maybe brief) humanity and love. I can't recommend Salo except for extreme, die-hard film buffs and for nihilistic types (and maybe for those interested in understanding the nature of fascism), and for those looking for what's worse after Gibson's POTC. It's definitely deserved, either way you take the film, as one of the most notorious, soul-churning pieces ever produced, though I wouldn't say it's one of the worst.
27 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So disturbing, but more than meets the eye
jcslawyer3 April 2020
This is on the list of most disturbing movies ever. But it's not disturbing for the sake of it. There is an underlying exposition of a fascist government and it's ability to control to the most depraved extremes. I don't need to go into the plot, just don't watch if your skin crawls easily.

Apparently based loosely on the Marquis de Sade's eponymous story, it feels feels icky. You will not finish the film feeling happy, relieved, redeemed, or satisfied. You will feel that humanity is capable of terrible things and sometimes for no real reason other than they can. It shows what happens when people blindly follow terrible people and abandoned their own sense of decency. The following orders defense will never work. When you've become an accomplice you ate equally guilty.

This movie has depth, but it's not an easy watch. It's not for a simple eve with a date. I can't imagine watching this with anyone other than fellow film students or a significant other you've been with for years.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ridiculous and Anti-Intellectual
Mourn-228 March 2000
Four fascists in WWII Italy abduct 16 youths and subject them to dehumanizing rape, humiliation and torture.

Many reviewers have commented that this movie is powerful and that everyone should see it because it gives you access to true feelings of disgust and guilt about man's inhumanity to man, especially during times of anarchistic, despotic, or fascist rule. If you need this movie to understand how terrible the crimes visited on people by the fascists, Nazi and otherwise, during WWII were, then Pasolini's only success is that he has demonstrated just how sick and desensitized our global society has become.

Stark brutality has its value as a tool for demonstrating the full force of certain horrible events. This tool was used effectively in other WWII films around the same subject, "Schindler's List" comes to mind. The problem with this film is that this tool has to be accompanied by real emotion and demonstration of the effect of that brutality. The only emotion (other than pure physical pain) demonstrated by the adolescents in this movie is during one scene where a young abductee cries at being reminded of the death of her mother. Aside from that, the victims walk through this movie like zombies as various disgusting acts are perpetrated upon them. There is no emotion, and frankly, the movie is an extremely boring series of repetitive acts of violence and humiliation that are reputedly designed to demonstrate the horror of unchecked power. The truth is, this is a dull expose on the acts of several bored, wealthy, powerful members of society who can no longer find stimulation in the banal trappings of every day life, just like the book it is based on.

The truth is, this movie has NOTHING to do with the horrors of fascism, it just happens that Pasolini chose a setting he knew well. There is no reason that this same exact movie could not be shot in a palace in the Middle East, a castle in Austria, a Villa in Latin America or a mansion in the USA and be just as realistic. It is nothing more than a dull comment on the depravity of the rich and bored.

Don't be drawn in by the mystery and the hushed tones that people use when they speak of this so-called "Masterpiece". And if you are a DVD owner, don't be fooled by the fact that Criterion wasted their time with this banal piece of Anti-Intellectual trash.
236 out of 411 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pasolini and "Salò"
EdgarST4 May 2003
I saw "Salò" for the first of more than 10 times in 1975, when I was 24 years old and lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of the few places in the world where it was not banned upon its release. As I have often said, "Salò" is the movie that changed my relation with films, when I became conscious of one of cinema's most important characteristics, called "impression of reality", and learned how different film languages, with all their techniques, effects and punctuations, can manipulate people's emotions.

I believe that since Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote "Teorema" (the long poem), he was convinced that sex was the most effective weapon against bourgeoisie, as had been stated by people like Wilhelm Reich or indirectly by the Marquis de Sade, a bourgeois himself (please, correct me if I am wrong). "Salò" seemed to be his definite demonstration of such assumption, although I wonder how would have been his next film, "Porno-Teo-Kolossal", an erotic-theological super-spectacle he was preparing with playwright Eduardo de Filippo and actor Ninetto Davoli (notice a hint of the reverential in the frame's compositions of "Salò", which resemble religious tableaux.)

As a reaction to a consumerist society sunk in terrorism and political crisis as was Italy in the 1970s, Pasolini created this parable of power, using Brechtian techniques and taking full advantage of the depth of field, to shock audiences accostumed to –as he said- "cowboys and Indians and Sophia Loren" (who reportedly left the movie house in revulsion). It's not easy to grasp in a single viewing all the connotations of a film that was attacked by both right and left, a movie about ideological perversion, genocidal sadism, pandering masochism and the transformation of human bodies into objects, a motion picture that addresses the fascist we all have inside, and that - after so much pessimism - gives us an image of "hope" (sort of) in the final scene in which a young guard teaches another one to dance!

Impressed by a film that had an essential bibliography in its credits, I was in awe in 1975. In any case, I wrote a positive review in a Puerto Rican newspaper, and after a couple of months it resurfaced and had a second run in an art house. In 1977 I returned to Panamá, where I wrote film reviews in a local paper and where "Salò" had not been yet released. In the summer of 1981 I led a group of Latin Americans in Paris to catch a show of "Salò" at 9pm, after missing it twice due to our confusion with nights that seemed to be afternoons, so bright at 8pm. This time I was surprised to discover Pasolini's humor amidst the horror he described. Back in Panamá, the manager of United Artists brought a copy from Santo Domingo and asked me to help him to get an exhibition certificate for "Salò", which he feared would also be banned in Panamá. With a couple of special screenings (I even had an argument with a priest who arrived late to a projection and stopped it to give a little speech against Pasolini, but who ended defending the filmmaker when the film was over!) and articles by other film critics, "Salò" was finally released in Panamá. Unfortunately, it played in a cinema specialized in pornography. At that time, I was the program director of the University of Panamá cinema and I rescued the film, which was exhibited for a month in the campus.

A couple of years ago I heard a wise final word about Pasolini's masterpiece, from a friend, filmmaker Orlando Senna. He said (more or less) that it would take a long time before "Salò" were "assimilated by the mainstream". Maybe it will happen, as abstract expressionism was seized by the cultural elites and official ideologies, and devoid of its subversive charge. But judging from the reactions it still causes in 2003, that time still seems to be far away.
25 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
easily the grossest film i have ever seen...
framptonhollis10 December 2016
Normally in December, I spend much of my time watching jolly Christmas classics! From "A Christmas Carol" to "It's a Wonderful Life", I just cannot get enough of the heartwarming and gentle nature of the world's finest holiday cinema. However, this December seems to be going a little bit differently. Today, instead of watching something like "Home Alone", I watched "Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom"

Based on the novel by the infamous Marquis de Sade, "Salo" is among the most difficult films ever made. It contains shocking imagery and concepts throughout and has a nonstop tendency to be ugly, dark, disturbing, depressing, and DISGUSTING! Some of the behavior depicted in this film is absolutely unspeakable. Pasolini has no limits-he shows all kinds of horrific acts tacking place in this film. If you are at all in any way easily shocked avoid this film at all costs! It is not only the most disgusting film I've ever seen, but also, in its own bizarre way, the most frightening. The fact that such atrocities can (and sometimes actually DO) happen is an extremely upsetting thing to think about. The world around us is filled with the sick and the vile, and in no film is that showcased more powerfully than in "Salo".

Despite its horrifically ugly nature, I found myself absolutely loving this film! Not in the traditional sense, however, for it is hard to say that I really "LOVED" a film in which well over half of it contains nothing but physical and sexual torture (including the consuming of literal sh*t and the drinking of a girl's urine, as well as calm discussion about how characters murdered their own mothers). However, this film is far more than just sexual torture. It is a horrific piece of cinema, but an excellently made one at that! Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the greatest Italian filmmakers, and he showcases his cinematic talent splendidly in this film. There are also many spectacular and haunting performances as well as some pitch-black humor which made a couple of the scenes slightly more bearable. This film is really a work of art, a satirical political statement about fascism that also contains quite a bit of explicit imagery throughout. I am willing to defend this film, despite its disgusting nature, because I legitimately do think that it is a masterpiece. A sick, disturbing, sadistic, hard- to-watch, brilliant, and smashingly powerful masterpiece!

5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
If the walls could tell us the things that see
Chaves777722 November 2006
I have seen few works of Pasolini and i have not liked as much as perhaps it should be. But "Salò or the 120 days of Sodom" changes an entire thought that i had created of Pasolini.

This unpleasant movie about the human coldness is based on a story written by Sade. The story is about four powerful and fascist men that, with four former prostitutes they kidnap a number of adolescent men and women to torture them sadistically.

I didn't want to watch the movie the first time that the opportunity appeared, i decided that it was better to wait and to investigate to understand the movie well. When i saw it the impact was hard but not traumatic.

"Salò or the 120 days of Sodom" can be seen by any person that wants to see it, this movie is not exclusive for intellectual people, but the person that wants to see it should investigate first about the fascism, of the life of Pasolini, of Sade and until the same Dante Alighieri. I think that if people don't take these steps first, the movie will be superficially view and it wont be seen by their meaning.

This criticizes by Pasolini toward the war it is a perfect metaphor of the fascism in Italy and at the same time a summarized chronicle of what this artist lived time behind. It is a work that many times, for alone to see the superficial thing and not the meaning, is not well interpreted.

"Salò or the 120 days of Sodom" is not a movie to enjoy, it is a movie to make us think on that sometimes us, the people, should be it that supposedly are, human. And this movie express this perfectly, doesn't care in the time that is.

*Excuse me, for any error with the words
13 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Horribly weak passe attempt at pure-shock value masquerading as a commentary on fascism
Freon11 January 1999
This is a mindless and passe attempt of a movie which is basically one disgusting "shocking" scene after another parading as intellectual commentary on fascism. Merely viewing shocking torture says nothing about the human condition. It doesn't make you think and it doesn't make you ponder anything. The only thing that remains is a sick "I wish I hadn't seen that" feeling in the pit of your stomach which amounts to a mere visceral response to viewing innocent victims tortured relentlessly. It is an easy way out for a director to resort to shock value instead of tackling the difficult subject of fascism with dignified examination.
72 out of 140 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Absolute Darkness
Galina_movie_fan14 November 2008
"Salo or 120 Days of Sodom" (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini is the film that completely lives up to its reputation of one of or even THE most disturbing, depressing, cruel, and unwatchable ever made. I had to fast forward some of the scenes and turned from the screen during the others. It is not surprising because Pasolini had adapted to the screen the most notorious and IMO unreadable novel by Marquise De Sade and updated it from 18th Century France to 1944 Fascist's Italy to so called Republic of Salo where Mussolini had his last residence. I could not finish the novel. I stopped after 40 pages or so because it is not the novel really rather a catalog of disgusting. The main four characters have been introduced in the beginning as the fully developed monsters. Their victims just stayed that - the victims. There is no plot, no intrigue, and no development, just the endless loop of rapes, tortures, and murders. Yes, I understand that it is a satire and the absolute power corrupts absolutely but reading the book was a torture of boredom. As for Pasolini's work, I've loved and admired every one of his films I've seen before I decided to see Salo. Controversial, unpredictable, a true poet of cinema, his films are among my favorites, they talk to me like not many do. I finished watching "Salo or 120 Days of Sodom", all of it, including the tragic devastating final part, and I have not formed the final opinion on it. It is not the film to enjoy, it is a beautifully photographed by great Tonino Delli Colli, dressed by Danilo Donati, with Production design by Dante Ferretti, set on piano music by Frédéric Chopin, "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orf, and original score by Ennio Morricone, journey to hell, to its most horrifying circles, and there is no Virgil to guide us there. Is it a masterpiece as some of the critics and viewers suggest or the failure that forgot what it wanted to say by showing the scene after scene of unthinkable tortures, humiliations and degradations that so called humans (or the creatures that look like humans but are worse than animals because animals don't torture for pleasure) inflict on the helpless and innocent victims? I don't know but it is unforgettable whether you like it or not and it was made by a brilliant master of cinema.

It is truly one of its kind films, and sometimes I think it is great, but more often - why Pasolini made it? As far as violence and disgusting content go, there are hundreds of films that have outdone Salo by the mile but nothing can beat it by its emotional impact, nothing can compare in the exploration of depths of inhumanity so called humans who are in reality the monsters in human shape are capable of. Pasolini said he wanted to make a movie with no hope - Salo it is. There is no hope, no single ray of light, no hint of optimism, only absolute darkness, and that perhaps disturbs and depresses the viewers so much. I still hear the cry of one of the girls-victims in the end of the film, "Why did God abandon us?!!" In the world where God turned his face away from His creatures, horror and degradation of these proportions are possible, and they may and do repeat over and over again in different periods of time, in different countries and continents.

Pasolini's last film is not the one I will ever want to see again but I believe it should be seen at least once by any thinking viewer.
9 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
You can beat Pier Paolo at his own game
giuseppe pelosi-328 July 1999
Pier Paolo set out to do two things when he made this film. First, he wanted to shock his desensitized audience into feeling something once again. Second, he set out to make a commentary about our morbid voyeuristic impulses. If you are not shocked, you are as disturbed as the libertines who conduct the evil tortures in the film. And if you sit through the film to the end, you are as voyeuristic as these libertines, perhaps making you no better than they are.

In a day and age when we boost television ratings by watching endless media reports on the Columbine Incident, the crash of JFK Jr's plane, and the ethic cleansing in Cosovo, Pasolini's film is timely. We want to see death, to experience shock and horror, and to know the gory details. We are desensitized. "Salo" will shock some sense into you, as I say, and if you last for the duration, Pasolini has made his point about you. Do yourself a favor. Beat Pier Paolo by avoiding this film. Then you've won, and you can spend the two hours watching a sunset or listening to the ocean.
47 out of 90 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
No comment...
RZ-530 September 1999
I just accidentally watched this movie in a small cinema, but I think there are two groups of mentally sick people, the first is who make films like this, the second is who enjoy them and feel some exceptional artistic deepness.
83 out of 168 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fetishes, Kinks and Abuse - Not For Kids
michaelradny28 July 2015
If you are more vanilla in your love life this film would look like a "Two Girls One Cup" inspiration movie. But for those wanting to experience the dark side of the mind, this film has your name written all over it. Disgusting beyond belief; the toilet is not someone else's mouth by the way. When it was released this film would have stirred up all the left wing sitters with its homosexual tones and its hypersexual nature. Don't believe the other reviews if you can take the eye torture. This film is actually quite entertaining and fun to watch if you can sustain from throwing up.

Disgusting? Fun? Bad? Good? It's up to you but I found this the best of the yuck! Just don't try and recreate their delicatessen dish.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
0/10. Bring me the head of Marquis de Sade.
Fella_shibby29 March 2020
Heard a lot since my teen days. Finally saw this trash aft much resistance in my head. Fast forwarded most scenes. Terrible at all levels. This ain't no movie man. Only followers of Anti-Christ will like n approve these kinda films. This is for the third time i gave a movie zero. In fact I dont even consider this trash to be a movie.
44 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed