Dir: Pier Paolo Pasolini
On 2 November 1975, the body of Pasolini was found on the beach at Ostia, near Rome. He had been run over multiple times by his own car. His crushed and bloodied corpse was photographed and printed in newspapers. This shocking and unforgettable image was ultimately a shocking way to end a shocking life.
Born in Bologna, Pasolini was the son of an Italian army lieutenant, who once saved Mussolini's life during an assassination attempt.
He was a keen student of poetry and literature, and gradually began to rebel against the Fascist politics of Italy at the time. At the age of 25, he wrote an article declaring that Communism was the only way forward.
However, he found it hard to be accepted by the Communist Party, as he was actively homosexual. He was fired from a teaching job, apparently accused of an affair with one of his minor students.
He moved to Rome, where his sexuality might be less of a problem, and his work as a poet an writer found attention. He collaborated on the script for Fellini's film 'Le notti di Cabiria', and at the age of 39, directed his first film, 'Accattone'.
He went on to make a total of twelve feature films, often causing controversy and incurring bans in Italy and overseas. However, his work attracted international critical praise, and he was invited as a member of the Jury at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival.
His final film 'Salo' was his most controversial. It was banned in over twenty countries.
Salo was the last place in Italy where Mussolini held power. Deposed in 1943, he fled south to evade the advancing allied troops. In his eighteen months in the 'Fascist Republic of Salo', 72,000 people were killed, 40,000 were tortured, and another 40,000 deported to German concentration camps.
Mussolini recruited local youths to carry out the atrocities. In the town of Marzabotto, his youthful troops tortured and killed up to 2000 citizens, suspected of assisting the resistance movement. According to the official Nazi report, over 250 were under 16 years old.
One of those who died was Pasolini's brother.
It is into this horrific environment that Pasolini transposes his adaptation of 'The 120 Days of Sodom' by the Marquis de Sade.
In the film, four powerful local dignitaries kidnap a group of teenage boys and girls and subject them to physical, sexual and mental torture.
This remains one of the most disturbing films ever made. Pasolini explores the depths of how far humans can fall into decadence and evil.
And yet, the film is considered by many artists and critics to be a masterpiece.
The Chicago Reader critic perhaps summed it up:
"Roland Barthes noted that in spite of all its objectionable elements, this film should be defended because it "refuses to allow us to redeem ourselves." It's certainly the film in which Pasolini's protest against the modern world finds its most extreme and anguished expression. Very hard to take, but in its own way an essential work."
Pasolini never saw the final edited film. A seventeen-year old male prostitute confessed to the murder, but in 2005 retracted his confession, saying that he had been forced to confess.
One theory is that he was a victim of political conflict for his radically anti-Fascist views. Others say that it was part of a failed extortion attempt, involving the theft of some of the reels of film from Salo.
In 2005, Italian judges declined to re-open the case.