Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom – a Nauseated Review

Jul 13, 2011 by

Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom – a Nauseated Review

Six months or so ago, during a visit to the Museum of Sex, I jotted down the titles of a few films they had featured in an exhibition, one of which was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, also known as The 120 Days of Sodom.

Now what you should know first is that I do consider myself highly tolerant of just about anything and remarkably difficult to offend. I have no issues with anything any adult chooses to do with their bodies in a consensual circumstance, and usually enjoy all things gory and considered revolting by the general populous, some favorites being the bloody, nightmare-inducing work of Rob Zombie and George Romero type filmmakers (and yes, I know people have very strong opinions of the work of both of those men, but I like them both).

So when I watched Salo, I didn’t know much of what to expect, but I clearly had NO idea what I was about to see.

Salo was produced in 1975. It is based on The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis De Sade. The version I have is dubbed in English, and from the research I’ve done, the translation is considered near-perfect. It is considered by some a drama or a thriller, but by others, a work of political satire. I could easily agree with any of those classifications.

The film is set in the mid 1940’s Nazi-occupied portion of Italy and begins with the meeting of 4 men: The Duke, The Bishop, The Magistrate, and the President. All obviously men of power in a corrupt state, sequestered away in a large estate, seemingly removed and concealed from the outside world. These men, assisted by their small fleet of young male guards, seek out and kidnap a total of 16 underage boys and girls and corral them in their country estate along with 3 aging prostitutes.

Over the span of the film, these men spend their days being regaled by the detailed, sexual encounters from the past of the three prostitutes. The stories of these women fall into three chapters: The Circle of Manias, The Circle of Shit, and the Circle of Blood. As one would expect, the film becomes more and more depraved as they go through each of these portions. As the women speak, the men have their way, inspired by the prostitutes, with the teenagers (the ages of the kidnapped seem to fall in the range of 15-16). The one notable aspect of every act in this film, save for one, lack any detail of human emotion or even basic human rights. The acts range from forced marriages and sodomy to extreme acts of scat fetishes and extreme bodily torture. The children are not seen as humans, but as vessels for the powerful men to have their way with, with absolutely zero regard for anything beyond their own corrupt pleasure. With an effort to not give away the ending I cannot say much more about the plot, but what I can say is there is no waiting silver lining in this movie.

I’m not sure I can truly recommend this film to anyone. I was not prepared for what I saw and there is no real way to prepare anyone else. If you think you might enjoy the implied criticism of corruption and politics, please consider taking the chance because the corruption shown is truly beyond words. If you have a weak stomach, however, and are offended by rape, pedophilia, scatophilia, pain, torture, or gore, please avoid it at all costs. While it is interesting and is surely a noteworthy film, it is definitely not what I would consider an enjoyable film or something that many people could actually stand to sit through in its entirety.

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