The Lost Pasolini Interview
'October 30, 1975, three days before being murdered, Pier Paolo Pasolini was in Stockholm to present what was to be his last film, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, to Swedish critics. A roundtable discussion was recorded with the intent of turning it into a radio broadcast. News of the filmmaker's death oddly resulted in the withholding of the recording rather than, as would surely happen today, an immediate publication.
Eventually, the recording was lost; as Eric Loret and Robert Maggiori tell the story in Libération, Pasolini's Swedish translator, Carl Henrik Svenstedt, a passionate archivist, discovered his own private copy recently. In December, the Italian newsweekly L'espresso posted the audio recording and published an Italian transcript. Here, for the first time, is an English translation.
After a couple of informal questions, the roundtable officially opens with "Ladies and gentlemen…"
What do you know about Swedish cinema?
I know Bergman, like all other Italian intellectuals. I don't know anyone else. I've heard the names of other Swedish filmmakers but I don't know their films.
Never seen them?
Never. Rome is a terrible city. There are independent cinemas but the occasions to watch them are very rare.
You don't have independent cinemas in Rome?
We do, just a couple. It's not like Paris.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Pasolini is here to present his new film. He just finished it and it's about Sodom…
I think this is the first time I've made a film for which the original idea wasn't mine. The film was proposed to Sergio Citti and as usual I was helping him to write the screenplay. As we went along, Citti began losing interest in the film while I was more and more in love with it, especially since I had the idea to set the film in '45, during the last days of the Republic of Salo. Citti started thinking about another script and abandoned the project all together. And given that I was in love with this project, I completed it.
Being based on De Sade, this film revolves around the representation of sex. But this aspect has changed in relation to my last three films that I call "the trilogy of life": The Decameron, Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights. In this new film, sex is nothing but an allegory of the commodification of bodies at the hands of power.
I think that consumerism manipulates and violates bodies as much as Nazism did. My film represents this sinister coincidence between Nazism and consumerism. Well, I don't know if audiences will grasp this since the film presents itself in rather enigmatic way, almost like a miracle play, where the sacred word retains its Latin meaning of "cursed."
Why did you choose the year 1945 for your film?
I wanted to represent the end of a world, past glory days. It was a poetic choice — I could have set it in '38, in '39 or '37, but it would've been less poetic.
What's poetic about that period?
Decadence and twilight are inherently poetic. Had I set it in the heyday of Nazism, it would've been an intolerable movie. To know that all this took place in the last days and that it would soon be over gives the spectator a sense of relief. Substantially this is a film about "true anarchy," that is, the anarchy of power.'