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353. TEOREMA (1968) | 366 Weird Movies

Still from Teorema (1968)

AKA Theorem

“I have just seen something absolutely disgusting! Pasolini’s latest film, Teorema. The man is mad!”–Maria Callas, quickly earlier than accepting the lead position in Pasolini’s Medea

DIRECTED BY: Pier Paolo Pasolini

FEATURING: Terence Stamp, Laura Betti, Massimo Girotti, Silvana Mangano, Andrés José Cruz Soublette, Anne Wiazemsky

PLOT: After an introduction during which a employee is interviewed concerning the manufacturing unit his boss simply gave him as a present, we see a bourgeois household obtain an invite saying that a customer can be coming quickly. It seems to be a good-looking however unnamed younger American man; each member of the household, and even the maid, fall in love with him, and he sleeps with every of them in flip. One other telegram arrives saying that the stranger has been referred to as away, and after he departs the household falls aside.


  • Pier Paolo Pasolini initially deliberate Teorema as a play, however modified it to a screenplay as a result of he believed there was not sufficient dialogue for it to work on the stage.
  • Regardless of Pasolini’s Marxism, the comparatively liberal Worldwide Catholic Group for Cinema awarded a jury prize to Teorema (because it needed to his extra typical 1964 movie The Gospel Based on Matthew). Pope Paul VI personally criticized the award, and it was withdrawn by the group.
  • As occurred with lots of Pasolini’s movies, Italian authorities challenged Teorema as obscene. As all the time, the Italian courts ultimately cleared it for public screenings after a trial.
  • Pasolini later adopted Teorema right into a novel (which has not, to our information, been translated into English).
  • Composer Giorgio Battistelli tailored the film into an opera in 1992.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The proletarian saint hovering over her village church. The daddy, bare on the slopes of Mt. Etna, screaming on the heavens, is an in depth runner-up. We reject the concept a closeup of Terence Stamp’s crotch in tight white pants is crucial visible image within the movie, though we will see how somebody may come to that conclusion.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Manspreading Stamp; levitating saint; bare, screaming pop

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Merely said however open to countless interpretation, Pasolini’s Teorema operates on a wierd logic of its personal, a type of triangulated synthesis of Marx, Freud, and Jesus Christ. Any film during which God seems as a bisexual fairly boy has one thing bizarre going for it.

British Blu-ray trailer for Teorema

COMMENTS: It’s a cheerful coincidence that Teorema—probably the most schematic, symmetrical, and mathematically exact of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s movies—is discovered virtually precisely in the midst of his filmography because the sixth of twelve function. In some methods the movie represents a turning level for the director, proof that he had left realism far behind in his quest for inventive fact. Pasolini—famous mental, Marxist, scandal-monger, and not-so-secret gay—started his profession as a poet and novelist (vocations he continued all through his life) earlier than creating an curiosity within the movie medium when he was requested to help on some screenplays, together with Federico Fellini‘s Nights of Cabiria. His first two solo features, Accatone and Mamma Rosa, were basically neorealist pictures set among Rome’s underclass of pimps and hustlers. After extra daring brief contributions to anthologies (together with one the place he forged Orson Welles as director of a ardour play the place the actor enjoying Christ truly dies), Pasolini shocked Italy by making The Gospel In response to St. Matthew, a reverent and conscientious adaptation of the Gospel that gained the approval of the Catholic Church and scandalized his Communist brethren (who had already expelled him from their official ranks after an incident involving an underage male prostitute, the director’s recurring and maybe deadly weak spot). Subsequent up, Pasolini went full Surrealist in The Hawks and the Sparrows, which forged well-liked clown Totò appearing alongside a speaking raven. Whereas a defiantly bizarre movie, Hawks was sadly burdened with too many allegorical references to personalities and occasions solely related to the mid-Sixties Italian left, which makes its satire pretty incomprehensible to trendy audiences. Pasolini’s subsequent work, a low-dialogue adaptation of Oedipus Rex which flipped forwards and backwards between the Italian post-war interval and the mythic previous, was solely barely much less unusual. Now, having left his neorealist beginnings behind him, Pasolini was prepared for an additional experiment: Teorema, his “theorem,” and his first specific assault on the bourgeoisie.

Teorema is schematic in construction: after the introductory passages, starting with a pretend documentary flash-forward adopted by an extended introduction to the members of his consultant bourgeois household achieved in a silent movie type, the plot settles right down to a collection of sexual encounters between dreamy-eyed customer Stamp and the members of the family (mom, father, daughter, son, maid). The ultimate part examines their particular person breakdowns after the stranger abruptly leaves the household, referred to as away on an unknown journey. Synopses regularly misreport that Stamp “seduces” the family, which is nearly the other of Pasolini’s scheme right here: every of the relations is interested in the customer on their very own and seeks to seduce him. He initially rejects their advances, however shortly succumbs—he supplies them intercourse as an act of charity, or grace. When Stamp leaves, with as little rationalization as was given for his arrival, the household falls aside. The pastimes they cling to attempt to fill his absence—intercourse, respectability, cash, artwork, even sanity—are empty and unsatisfactory. Solely the housekeeper Elena, who retreats to her nation village the place she eats nettles and performs morose miracles, escapes their tragic fates.

What all of it means is up for interpretation: regardless of delivering every plot level on time with mathematical regularity, Pasolini leaves out some important step from his proof that might lead us to an irrefutable conclusion. The “correct” interpretation—the Marxist one—appears virtually apparent, however it depends in your exterior information of Pasolini’s thought; it’s not deducible from the movie itself. And there’s much more to chew on then the straightforward state of affairs suggests. It appears clear that what Pasolini is doing right here is subjecting quite a few check instances to his unspoken “theorem” (which can be, as a speaker says within the faux-documentary prologue, that “a member of the bourgeois, whatever he does, is always wrong”), then observing the outcomes. Terence Stamp’s character is the “theorem” personified; he provides every character what she or he wants, however didn’t know they wanted, in life. When he’s taken away from them, they’re all modified. Within the aftermath of the good-looking stranger’s go to, the 4 rich relations fall into catatonia, despair, or empty licentiousness; however the maid, the only consultant of the proletariat, turns into a saint with miraculous powers. This consequence helps the “whatever the bourgeoisie does is wrong” concept, suggesting that, on account of their absorption in wealth and standing and their unconscious want to take advantage of others, the household is incapable of recognizing and being modified by an encounter with the divine. Laden by property and guilt, they’re predestined to endure; even when the daddy provides away his possessions, he nonetheless appears unable to cross by way of the needle’s eye. In the meantime, the straightforward and humble maid is elevated right into a holy and righteous being.

In some ways, Teorema jogs my memory of one other angsty Sixties movie, Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow-Up (1966). Both are experimental features shot by Italians featuring a handsome, young, sexualized English actor; both explore the meaning of meaninglessness in modernity, with short bursts of sex that scandalized contemporary norms. Pasolini’s movie is extra textured and mystical, however each movies could be a little bit of a chore to get by means of resulting from their sluggish tempo and indifference to storytelling norms. However the primary similarity I discover is in impact moderately than temper or fashion: neither of the movies are “fun” to observe, however each of them linger within the thoughts afterwards due to their ambiguity. Their easy situations invite complicated  interpretations. Each films are extra rewarding after you’ve seen them then when you are experiencing them. Teorema begins from a Marxist perspective and makes use of the language of sophistication wrestle, however the thesis additionally depends closely on Catholic imagery—suggesting a hyperlink between Christ and Marx’s exaltation of the poor—and on sexual psychology. What can we make of the delicate hints of want between the daughter and the daddy, and the daddy and the son, contrasting to the sexual alienation of the husband and spouse? Are these Oedipal cobweb threads the one factor holding the bourgeois household collectively? Does the stranger’s act of sexual liberation destroy the household unit? These, and different questions Pasolini’s theorem solely not directly addresses, draw the story again into our ideas after the comparatively modest fable has performed itself out onscreen.

Teorema‘s content is no longer shocking. In fact, it’s virtually inconceivable at the moment to place oneself within the mindset of an viewers who can be shocked by it. A gay character may need been uncommon in 1968, however a person who fornicates equally with women and men—and whose charms are irresistible to straight males—was much more threatening to sexual mores. It’s much more outrageous when it’s hinted that the pansexual customer could be God. Pasolini’s subsequent outing, Porcile (or Pigsty) was one other unusual and scandalous movie involving cannibalism and dislocations in time. The auteur then retreated, slightly, from his Surrealist flirtations to return to classical themes with an summary adaptation of the Greek fable of Medea (starring opera singer Maria Callas, in her solely movie efficiency). This was adopted by what are immediately his hottest and accessible works, the “Trilogy of Life,” three breezily erotic films filled with intercourse and nudity based mostly on literary sources: The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales (which memorably included one weird scene of demons shitting friars), and The Arabian Nights. Naturally, all of them obtained Pasolini in hassle with the censors and the Church; but, fairly than backing off that path, he completed his profession by adapting De Sade’s sadomasochistic fantasia The 120 Days of Sodom, which stays to today probably the most completely pornographic and unsettlingly nihilistic work ever filmed by an arthouse stalwart. His provocative profession was minimize brief in a fittingly ironic method: his mangled physique was uncover, apparently murdered by a 17-year-old hustler he picked up in Ostia, though whispers of a wider conspiracy dogged the conviction for years afterwards. What Pasolini would have provide you with subsequent, had he lived, is anybody’s guess; the one factor we might confidently lay cash on is that it will be sudden. Pasolini’s profession arc, from poet to pornographer by means of a various collection of experiments, is among the strangest in all of cinema. He’s too iconic, too monumental, and too odd a determine to not be represented on an inventory of the weirdest films ever made. Teorema, an enigma so influential that its primary premise was reworked in bizarre variations by Takashi Miike in Customer Q and François Ozon in Sitcom, is—theoretically, a minimum of—the right Pasolini for our functions.


“For the moviegoer whose sensibilities have been preset to receive ‘Baby Love’—or just about any other movie now in first run here—’Teorema’ is likely to be a calamitous and ridiculous experience… The movie itself is the message, a series of cool, beautiful, often enigmatic scenes that flow one into another with the rhythm of blank verse.”–Vincent Canby, The New York Occasions (contemporaneous)

“I don’t feel ready to write about this mysterious film; perhaps, a week from now, I’ll decide it is very bad, a failure. But perhaps it is the most brilliant work yet by that strange director, Pier Paolo Pasolini… The sort of moviegoer who thinks all movies must make sense — obvious common sense, that is — should avoid ‘Teorema.’ Those who go anyway will be mystified, confused, perhaps indignant.”–Roger Ebert, Chicago Solar Occasions (contemporaneous)

“…basically a film about Terence Stamp’s crotch. Admirers of Stamp who have long nursed a secret urge to kneel before Zod may rejoice in the film’s endless scrutiny of his family jewels; everyone else will be laughing at Pasolini’s pretentious, free-form, dream-like nonsense.”–Dan Callahan, Slant Journal (DVD)

IMDB LINK: Teorema (1968)


PIER PAOLO PASOLINI–THE ATHEIST WHO WAS OBSESSED WITH GOD – A surprisingly candid interview with Pasolini—who was often coy and elliptical in discussing his personal movies—initially revealed in 1969 within the New York Occasions

TEOREMA  (1968) – British Movie Institute video of Terrence Stamp discussing his position in Teorema

Marxism and Sexuality in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’ (1968) – Regardless of the title, Jerome Reuter’s article focuses on Stamp’s character as a Christ determine

LIST CANDIDATE: TEOREMA (1968) – This website’s unique 2013 Record Candidate evaluation for Teorema


“Pasolini Requiem” -Barth David Schwartz’s 656-page tome is probably the only most exhaustive biography of any director in print; Teorema has most of a chapter to itself

HOME VIDEO INFO: Kino Lorber’s 2005 Area 1 DVD is out of print and appears to have virtually disappeared from cabinets, though used copies might be discovered at affordable costs (purchase used). It boasts an almost hour-long supplementary documentary, Pasolini and Demise: A Purely Mental Thriller, as its solely vital additional. Kino’s obvious lack of rights could also be a blessing in disguise, because it might clear the best way for the Criterion Assortment to snap them as much as broaden their very own rising Pasolini assortment (which presently consists of Mamma Rosa, the whole “Trilogy of Life,” and Salo).

In the meantime, Europeans and people with common gamers have issues higher with the British Movie Institute’s 2013 DVD/Blu-ray combo set (purchase). The BFI disc(s) have Criterion-level options: a restored print, an insightful commentary by movie skilled Robert Gordon, a thirty-minute interview with Terence Stamp, an English language dub monitor, the 2013 theatrical launch trailer, and a booklet with important essays on the movie—each new and classic—together with biographies of Pasolini and Stamp.

To our information Teorema was not obtainable for streaming on the time of this writing (a minimum of, not in the united statesA.; Brits can watch it on-line on the BFI website with a subscription).

(This film was nominated for evaluation by “lo-fi jr.,” who referred to as it “the most psychotically Catholic flick I’ve ever seen.” Recommend a bizarre film of your personal right here.)