Let me start off by saying, I had no intention of reviewing Salo after watching it. This film is an emotional roller coaster, but not the fun, adrenaline-inducing kind you can't wait to hop in line again for a second go. This is the kind of film you find yourself staring at the screen, well after the credits have rolled and ask "What the hell did I just watch?"
I did a bit of research--and by research I mean I scoured the IMDb message boards--and have found a lot of people are split, between calling this film garbage or a masterpiece. I will take no such side but rather attempt to prepare you, if you do plan on watching this film, for what you're in for.
This 1975 film, based on the novel "Les 120 Journess de Sodom" by Marquis de Sade, by Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini centers around a part of Nazi occupied Italy, during the second World War. A couple of Italian fascists kidnap 18 boys and girls and put them in a large, remote house where, for the next 120 days, proceed to emotionally, sexually and physically torture them.
It goes without saying, this film is graphic and found myself cringing a few times. But what I found interesting during my very professional research is how some people took this film as a challenge. If you find yourself saying, "well, I've seen worse," or "it wasn't as bad as people keep saying," then you've clearly missed the message. Salo is not a test of endurance to see how squeamish you are. Or, like me right after watching it, you think it's so horrible you're blindsided by the images that you overlook the metaphorical message the film is trying to get across. Pasolini's intention was to make people angry and upset...about fascism--not the film, and consequently he was stabbed to death by someone who was upset over the film. There's something ironic about that, isn't there?
A few semesters ago, one of my film professors said there were two films he would never show in class (guess one of the films?) and was talking about how films that we never expect to have a message are the ones that, verbatim, fuck us. What he means is that we should always be aware of the ideological messages implanted in films, every time we go to the movies, even if it's some entertainment-based blockbuster *cough, cough: The Avengers*. What I'm getting at is films are powerful visual mediums, used to produce both big studio juggernauts and arthouse pictures, but all of them are facades with serious political, social, environmental, racial, etc. messages. Salo is perhaps the most metaphorical film I've ever seen, we should treat its message with respect. I mean, someone died because this was made, how can we deny the emotional impact these visual vehicles continue to have?
Alright, I'm stepping off my podium now. Salo contains heavy subject material, it should be taken seriously. If it's true what they say that knowledge is the key to social destruction it would be wise to become aware of what Pasolini attempted to create here and understand it. Otherwise we're just like the children in the film--powerless.
I see no point in rating this film. I'll just say this: it did what it set out to accomplish, so in that sense it was successful.