The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films from Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Marxism, religious feeling, gayness and penchant for startling visual poetry combine for a heady brew in Theorem, a surreal allegory about a handsome no-name stranger (Terence Stamp) who inexplicably visits a bourgeois Milanese family and proceeds to seduce maid, son, Mom, daughter and Dad before departing. This is The Gospel According to Sinner Pier Paolo. The Vatican condemned it, and Pasolini was actually tried for obscenity. Thank God he prevailed!
Dad (Massimo Girotti) owns a factory. He gets it in the behind last because he is the pièce de résistance. Upshot: Dad turns over his factory to the workers. Well and good; but Pasolini reflects upon a possible adverse consequence: that the working class itself might turn bourgeois. Pasolini: “[A]nything done by the bourgeoisie, however sincere, profound, and noble it is, is always on the wrong side of the track.”
The opening shot is of an expanse of seemingly ancient barren land, upon which is superimposed a quote from Exodus to the effect that God led the people by way of the wilderness. This is followed by shots of the factory complex, followed by the owner’s chauffeured entrance into the complex. Shots of the wilderness are interspersed. The factory owner thus appears as the modern diminution of God, while the factory, “civilization,” has replaced the wilderness. A shot of the owner with his family at the dinner table implies that “home” is an extension of “factory.” With its touch of wildness/wilderness, the anonymous stranger’s pansexuality is bound to shake things up.
The stranger’s first conquest is the maid (Laura Betti, brilliant), who simply adores him. She ends up, miraculously, suspended in air, arms outstretched, herself an object of adoration. Wow!
Despite efforts to condemn Pasolini, his film is chaste: bare male buttocks, no genitalia.
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