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The film is a loose adaptation of the book written in The Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade , set during World War II , and was Pasolini's final film, being released three weeks after his murder.
The libertines kidnap 18 teenagers and subject them to four months of extreme violence, murder, sadism and sexual and mental torture. The film explores the themes of political corruption , consumerism , capitalism, nihilism , morality , abuse of power, social Darwinism , sadism, sexuality and fascism.
Premiering at the Paris Film Festival on 23 November , the film had a brief theatrical run in Italy before being banned in January , and was released in the United States the following year on 3 October Because it depicts youths subjected to graphic violence, sadism , sexual deviance and brutal murder, the film was controversial upon its release and has remained banned in several countries into the 21st century.
The confluence of thematic content in the film—ranging from the political and socio-historical, to psychological and sexual—has led to much critical discussion. It has been both praised and decried by various film historians and critics and was named the 65th-scariest film ever made by the Chicago Film Critics Association in The film is separated into four segments with intertitles, based on Dante 's Divine Comedy : . They rule that when they get to the mansion their daughters must be completely naked at all times.
They recruit four teenage boys to act as guards dressed with uniforms of Decima Flottiglia MAS and four young soldiers called "studs", "cockmongers", or "fuckers" , who are chosen because of their large penises.
They then kidnap nine young men and nine young women and take them to a palace near Marzabotto. Accompanying the libertines at the palace are four middle-aged prostitutes, also collaborators, whose job it is to orchestrate debauched interludes for the men, who sadistically exploit their victims.
During the many days at the palace, the four men devise increasingly abhorrent tortures and humiliations for their own pleasure. During breakfast, the daughters enter the dining hall naked to serve food. One of the studs trips and rapes a daughter in front of the crowd, who laugh at her cries of pain. Intrigued, the President moons several slaves before prompting the stud to perform anal sex on him and the Duke sings 'Sul Ponte di perati'.
Signora Vaccari uses a mannequin to demonstrate to the young men and women how to properly masturbate a penis and one of the girls tries to escape, only to have her throat cut. Signora Vaccari continues with her story.
Two victims, Sergio and Renata, are forced to marry. The ceremony is interrupted when the Duke fondles several victims and prostitutes. At the end, Sergio and Renata are forced to fondle each other and the men rape them to stop them from having sex with each other.
During this, the Magistrate engages with the Duke in three-way intercourse. Another day, the victims are forced to get naked and act like dogs.
When one of the victims, Lamberto, refuses, the Magistrate whips him and tortures the President's daughter by tricking her into eating food containing nails.
Signora Maggi relates her troubled childhood and her coprophilia. As she tells her story, the President notices that one of the studs has an erection and fondles him; another stud uses a female victim's hand to masturbate himself. She also explains how she killed her mother over a dispute about her prostitution and Renata cries, remembering the murder of her own mother.
The Duke, sexually excited at the sound of her cries, begins verbally abusing her. The Duke orders the guards and studs to undress her. During this, she begs God for death and the Duke punishes her by defecating on the floor and forcing her to eat his feces with a spoon.
The President leaves to masturbate. Later, the other victims are presented with a meal of human feces. During a search for the victim with the most beautiful buttocks, Franco is picked and promised death in the future.
Later, there is a Black Mass-like wedding between the studs and the men of power. The men angrily order the children to laugh, but they are too grief-stricken to do so. The Pianist and Signora Vaccari tell jokes to make the victims laugh. The wedding ceremony ensues with each man of power exchanging rings with a stud.
After the wedding, the Bishop consummates the marriage and receives anal sex from his stud. The Bishop then leaves to examine the captives in their rooms, where they start systematically betraying each other: Claudio reveals that Graziella is hiding a photograph, Graziella reveals that Eva and Antiniska are having a secret sexual affair and Ezio, a collaborator and the black servant girl are shot dead after being found having sex, but not before Ezio makes a defiant Socialist salute.
Victim Umberto Chessari is appointed to replace Ezio. Toward the end, the remaining victims are called out to determine which of them will be punished. Graziella is spared due to her betrayal of Eva and Rino is spared due to his submissive relationship with the Duke. Those who are called are given a blue ribbon and sentenced to a painful death, while those who haven't been called, as long as they kept collaborating with the libertines, can hope to return home.
The victims huddle together and cry and pray in the bathroom. They are then taken outside and raped, tortured and murdered through methods such as branding , hanging, scalping , burning and having their tongues and eyes cut out, as each libertine takes his turn to watch as a voyeur. The soldiers shake hands and bid each other farewell. The Pianist, looking out an open window, suddenly realises with horror what atrocities are being committed, and climbing out, throws herself to her death.
The film's final shot is of two young soldiers, who had witnessed and collaborated in all the atrocities, dancing a simple waltz together; one asks the name of the other's girlfriend back at home.
Pasolini's writing collaborator Sergio Citti had originally been attached to direct the intended adaptation of the Marquis de Sade 's The Days of Sodom. In the film, almost no background is given on the tortured subjects and, for the most part, they almost never speak.
Initially, Ninetto Davoli was chosen to play Claudio, a young collaborationist, but due to legal problems he had to decline, the role being replaced by Claudio Troccoli, a young man who had a similarity to Davoli in his first films. Pupi Avati, being the writer, is not officially accredited due also to legal problems. Most of the actors of the cast, although they were natural actors, many of them were models that did not have modesty to show their naked bodies and most of them retaining their original name.
Franco Merli was considered like a prototype of the Pasolinian boy. Ezio Manni remembers during filming: "The same with Franco Merli, the boy chosen for the seat more beautiful. When to reward the link the gun to his head, he had a rebellious snap, could not withstand that gesture.
Then, there, too, he came the assistant director and if it is embraced. Franco Citti was to play one of the soldiers' studs, but he did not appear.
Laura Betti was also going to play Signora Vaccari, but also because of legal problems and prior commitments to Novecento. He was chosen for the role because he had all "the characteristics of a decadent intellectual. Aldo Valletti the President was a friend of Pasolini from the time of Accattone.
Giorgio Cataldi the bishop another friend of Pasolini, was a clothes seller in Rome. Paolo Bonacelli El Duque had participated in several small Italian productions of the s and s. Several outdoor scenes were filmed in Villa Aldini,  a neoclassical building on the hills of Bologna. The interiors were shot in Villa Sorra near Castelfranco Emilia. The town on the Reno replaces the fictional location in Marzabotto.
The shooting, carried out mainly in the 16th-century Villa Gonzaga-Zani in Villimpenta in the spring of , was difficult and involved scenes of homophilia , coprophagia and sadomasochism. The acts of torture in the courtyard caused some of the actors to suffer abrasions and burns. During production, some reels were stolen and the thieves demanded a ransom for their return.
Using doubles, the same scenes were reshot but from a different angle. At the trial for Pasolini's murder, it was hypothesized that Pasolini was told the film reels were discovered in Ostia Lido. He was led there by Pelosi, the accused, and fell victim to an ambush, where he died. The original music corresponds to Ennio Morricone interpreted at the piano by Arnaldo Graziosi. It seems that Pasolini was undecided on what type of conclusion the film should have, to the point of having conceived and shot four different endings: the first was a shot of a red flag in the wind with the words "Love You", but it was abandoned by the director because he thought it "too pompous" and "prone to the ethics of psychedelic youth", which he detested.
Pasolini on the film's depiction of sex, The film remains banned in several countries and sparked numerous debates among critics and censors about whether or not it constituted pornography due to its nudity and graphic depiction of sex acts. A cut version prepared under Ferman's supervision, again without formal certification, was subsequently screened under cinema club conditions for some years.
In , in an uncut form, the film was finally passed for theatrical and video distribution in the United Kingdom. The film was not banned in the United States and received a limited release in October ; it was, however, banned in Ontario , Canada.
A large group of artists, including Martin Scorsese and Alec Baldwin , and scholars signed a legal brief arguing the film's artistic merit; the Ohio state court dismissed the case because the police violated the owners' Fourth Amendment rights, without reaching the question of whether the film was obscene. It was banned in Australia in for reasons of indecency.
However, the Australian Classification Review Board overturned this decision in February and banned the film outright, for "offensive cruelty with high impact, sexual violence and depictions of offensive and revolting fetishes". The film was then pulled from all Australian cinemas.
According to the Australian Classification Board media release, the DVD was passed due to "the inclusion of minutes of additional material which provided a context to the feature film. Screening this film in a cinema without the additional material would constitute a breach of classification laws. In New Zealand, the film was originally banned in The ban was upheld in In , special permission was granted for the film to be screened uncut at a film festival.
In , the DVD was finally passed uncut with an 'R18' rating. The site's consensus states that the film "will strike some viewers as irredeemably depraved, but its unflinching view of human cruelty makes it impossible to ignore". Director Michael Haneke named the film his fourth-favorite film when he voted for the Sight and Sound poll; director Catherine Breillat and critic Joel David also voted for the film. The film's reputation for pushing boundaries has led some critics to criticize or avoid it; the Time Out film guide, for example, deemed the film a "thoroughly objectionable piece of work," adding that it "offers no insights whatsoever into power, politics, history or sexuality.
Upon the film's United States release, Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, " Salo is, I think, a perfect example of the kind of material that, theoretically, anyway, can be acceptable on paper but becomes so repugnant when visualized on the screen that it further dehumanizes the human spirit, which is supposed to be the artist's concern. Haglund concluded that he still would not watch the film. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote of the film: " Roland Barthes noted that in spite of all its objectionable elements he pointed out that any film that renders Sade real and fascism unreal is doubly wrong , this film should be defended because it 'refuses to allow us to redeem ourselves.
Very hard to take, but in its own way an essential work. No scene of a sex act has been confirmed in the film until one of the libertines has approached its participants and sodomized the figure committing the act. Nikos Nikolaidis ' The Zero Years has been compared to the film. The documentary also included photographs taken on the set of the film.
Die 120 tage von Sodom
Described as both pornographic  and erotic,  it was written in To do this, they seal themselves away for four months in an inaccessible castle in the heart of the Black Forest ,  with a harem of 36 victims, mostly male and female teenagers, and engage four female brothel keepers to tell the stories of their lives and adventures. The women's narratives form an inspiration for the sexual abuse and torture of the victims, which gradually mounts in intensity and ends in their slaughter. The work went unpublished until the early 20th century. It remains a highly controversial book, having been banned by some governments due to its explicit nature and themes of sexual violence and extreme cruelty, but remains of significant interest to students and historians. The novel takes place over five months, November to March.
Die 120 Tage von Sodom
The film is a loose adaptation of the book written in The Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade , set during World War II , and was Pasolini's final film, being released three weeks after his murder. The libertines kidnap 18 teenagers and subject them to four months of extreme violence, murder, sadism and sexual and mental torture. The film explores the themes of political corruption , consumerism , capitalism, nihilism , morality , abuse of power, social Darwinism , sadism, sexuality and fascism. Premiering at the Paris Film Festival on 23 November , the film had a brief theatrical run in Italy before being banned in January , and was released in the United States the following year on 3 October Because it depicts youths subjected to graphic violence, sadism , sexual deviance and brutal murder, the film was controversial upon its release and has remained banned in several countries into the 21st century. The confluence of thematic content in the film—ranging from the political and socio-historical, to psychological and sexual—has led to much critical discussion. It has been both praised and decried by various film historians and critics and was named the 65th-scariest film ever made by the Chicago Film Critics Association in