When you first discovered the meaning behind the word “coprophilia” what was your reaction? Hopefully it was one of pure disgust and utter confusion at how this interest and often erotic fascination even exists in any human realm, but it does. Therefore it’s safe to say that before watching Saló or 120 Days of Sodom, you might want to understand the meaning of the word because you’re going to become exceptionally acquainted with acts of coprophilia through the duration of this stomach toughening challenge…
Saló / 120 Days of Sodom is from Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, and is a film interpretation of one of the most controversial pieces of literature: 120 Days of Sodom from Marquis de Sade. The film follows four libertine facists who take nine young girls and nine young boys and subject to them to 120 atrocious and horrific days of mental, physical and sexual torture for their pleasure and amusement.
Marquis de Sade is notoriously known in the literary world for having written what is considered as one of the most disturbing and mentally challenging books known to man. For the last four years I have steadily been working by way through the PTSD-inducing pages yet can only fathom to digest those kinds of perturbing images in small doses otherwise my mind would be lost in a peadophilic nightmare forever. If you have never darkened your soul with the written atrocities, it seems only wise to steer you as far away as possible from something that could damage you forever, however, I also know how the curious mind works and therefore it seems you’ll be delving into a copy within the next few days. Transforming such heinous acts of pure evil is something that cannot be easily achieved, especially considering that Marquis de Sade’s book is so intricately detailed and describes events that just cannot be fully shown on screen, most likely due to legality issues. With this in mind, it means that Pasolini was never going to achieve such crudeness as Sade could through words, and therefore the film is devoid of many the tales depicting sexual torture against underage children, some too young to even understand the acts that are being forced upon them.
Saló is the Italian director’s homage to Sade’s work,and the film sparked outrage just as the book did too. It was screened in Paris three weeks after Pasolini was murdered, and then went on to be released in some countries, however, as one of the most controversial films ever released, it was subject to the ever restrictive censorship and banned in many countries. To this day it remains banned in certain countries, and has been described as the sickest movie of all time, but even with such a description it is also regarded as a highly important film within cinema history and a movie that should be seen by all those serious about film, regardless of the disturbing content that the viewer will have to be subjected to. Pasolini took advantage of the film by changing certain aspects from Sade’s original work to fit with the social situation that happened in Italy in 1944, during the end of Benito Mussolini’s regime. By adapting the setting of the book and including this setting alongside facist elements, it became noted that Pasolini was enforcing a point about social culture at the time and in Italian history, and trying to turn something controversial into a commentary of the position of power, which is not something often easily achieved through film. Although highly controversial and disturbing in subject matter, Saló is regarded as a film that serves a purpose and aims to tell an intelligent metaphor even if that involves scenes depicting peadophilia, sexual abuse and eating human excrement. Sade’s original book has been helmed by many academics of literature as a piece of art, albeit if you like or dislike the work, and something that should be studied and considered if you are serious about literature; and therefore it seemed it was Pasolini’s aim to do something similar with his film adaptation.
Even with such an extensive and coherent background for Saló, it is still a film that will always create a conversation if you mention the name because it’s known for being particularly disgusting in the sense of one exact moment: the one involving coprophilia… Coprophilia is the strange and misunderstood fascination (and often arousal) with human excrement, and the act of defecating. For those of us who have no such interest in what comes of of ourselves and other people, it’s a phenomenon that leaves us feeling repulsed and perplexed that some people have such an interest in something so putrid. One particular video that exhibited such behaviour was Two Girls One Cup, which if you had the displeasure of viewing, you will know that the consumption of human feaces for erotic purposes is an act that will leave a dark imprint on your mind forever. During one of the feasts at the manor in Saló, we are witness to an entire three course meal divulged of the excrement from all the children at the house, who were forced to keep their bodily functions in until just before dinner time to be served fresh, and those who did not were punished for potentially ruining such a delicious banquet. It is this scene which has helped Salo to gain its reputation and acquire looks or cries of revolt when mentioning that it’s a film you have watched.
The other issue with Saló is mainly that is delves into the world of peadophilia, which is a topic that no-one is comfortable with, and rightly so. One of the reasons that A Serbian Film became such a repulsive topic to broach with anyone was due to the scenes involving children and therefore it’s the same aspect with Saló, because harm and abuse to children is something that none of us even like to think about, yet alone see brace our screens. Saló is heavily focused on the mental, physical and sexual torture of children and therefore provokes the audience in a very sensitive manner, which is to be expected. Although Saló is a film that you should see if you are wanting to expand your cinema knowledge and understand about controversial films, you need to prepare yourself for the reality that this film openly explores very brutal themes of child abuse and will leave you with some mentally disturbing pictures.
Saló still holds up to this day as one of the most sodomising films to ever brace our screens, and rightly gained its controversial status in the cinema industry. If cinema is purely for entertainment, then I would suggest you go no further than only reading the synopsis of this film, however, if you have a real interest in extreme cinema and exploitation films, I would urge that you line your stomach and harden your mind to experience one of the most disgusting films ever made.
Verdict: 5 out of 5