Pasolini Next to us (intervista di Gideon Bachmann 1975)

Quando gli anni Sessanta
saranno perduti come il Mille,
e, il mio, sarà uno scheletro
senza più neanche nostalgia del mondo,
cosa conterà la mia “vita privata”,
miseri scheletri senza vita
né privata né pubblica, ricattatori,
cosa conterà! Conteranno le mie tenerezze,
sarò io, dopo la morte, in primavera,
a vincere la scommessa, nella furia
del mio amore per l’Acqua Santa al sole.

da “Poesie mondane” in Poesia in forma di rosa

Pasolini fu uno scrittore impegnato. Prese posizione quotidianamente di fronte a fatti, eventi, problemi del suo tempo, con interventi su giornali, documentari, interviste in televisione, partecipazioni a convegni. Tra le sue opere impegnate ricordiamo: Comizi d’amore, film documentario sulla percezione della sessualità in Italia (1965), Le mura di Sana’a , cortometraggio in forma di appello all’Unesco, girato a Sana’a, capitale dello Yemen (1971), La forma della città – Orte – Sabaudia, documentario sull’edilizia moderna e la distruzione del passato (1973) video: La forma della città, Le belle bandiere, raccolta dei testi usciti nel periodo 1960- 1965 nella rubrica Dialoghi con Pasolini di Vie Nuove, pubblicato postumo nel 1977, Il Caos, raccolta dei testi scritti nel periodo 1968-1970 per la rubrica Caos del settimanale  (queste due raccolte si possono trovare in Pier Paolo Pasolini I dialoghi, Editori Riuniti), Scritti Corsari del 1975 e Lettere luterane, postumo del 1976, raccolte degli articoli di giornale scritti dal 1973 al 1975 per il Corriere della Sera.

Di seguito si riportano stralci dai sottotitoli in inglese dell’intervista rilasciata da Pasolini (P.P.P.) a Gideon Bachmann (G.B.) (link Gideon Bachmann), giornalista di Sight and Sound, rivista inglese di cinema, sul set di Salò (per l’intervista completa vedi Pasolini Prossimo nostro, 2006 di Giuseppe Bertolucci link)

The particular meaning of sex in Salò

P.P.P.: So, there’s a lot of sex, but the sex in the film is De Sade’s typical sex which is characteristically exclusively sadomasochist, in all of the atrocity of his details and situations. (…), but in my film all of this sex takes on a particular meaning: it is the metaphor of what power does to the human body, its commercialization (mercificazione), its reduction to a thing which is typical of power, of any power.
(…) This currency (attualità) marks a true change with respect to the films I have made up to now, that is the “Trilogy of life” Decameron, Canterbury’s tales, Arabian nights.
(…) Its pure Marxism, Marx’s “Manifest” says just this: power commercialises the body, it transforms the body in goods.
That sadists have always been powerful is a point of fact. In fact, in De Sade, the 4 people that perform the terrible acts during the 120 days are a banker, a duke, a bishop and a president of the court, and they represent power.

The young people

G.B.: How can this film’s message be understood by today’s young people?
P.P.P.: I don’t think that the young people will understand it. I have no illusions of being understood by the young because it’s impossible to establish a cultural relationship with them because they live new values which have nothing in common with the old values I refer to.
It’s as if they have an agreement! They talk, they laugh and they behave the same way, they love the same things, drive the same motorcycles. In short I saw uniforms when I was a boy, I saw the Fascist youth movement, but I have never seen people conform like they do today, (…) but it’s a conformism based on this informal and self creating youth movement. (…) The horrible thing about journalism and about the Italian culture is that young people are free, they are free of complexes, they are uninhibited, they live a happy life. Imagine the entire Italian bourgeoisie is convinced of this, and the entire left wing, as well. They think these young people are finally the young people…. Do you follow me? They don’t understand, they don’t see because they don’t love them! Those who don’t love farmers don’t understand their tragedy. Those who don’t love the young people couldn’t care less about them. They don’t care about them, because they don’t love them. (…) I, having loved them dearly, have always followed them. (…) It is all dedicated to love (è tutto una dichiarazione d’amore) all of my books and my narrative works speak of the young. I loved them and I depicted them.


P.P.P.: Today’s ideal is consumerism, there is an enormous group extending from Milan to Bologna it includes Rome and spreads to the south. It is a homologating civilisation that makes everything the same. So it’s clear that the barriers fall, that small group disband.

G.B.: Without ideology?

P.P.P.: What, it has no ideology? With a consumer ideology, you don’t… Instead having a flag, the clothes they wear are their flag. Some of the means and some of the external phenomena have changed, but, in practice, it’s a depauperation of individuality which is disguised (si maschera) through its valorisation.

Sex in permissive societies

P.P.P.: During the so-called “repressive” ages sex was a joy, because it was practiced in secret and it made a mockery (era una irrisione) of all of the obligations and duties that the repressive power imposed. Instead, in tolerant societies, as the one we live in is declared to be, sex produces neuroses, because the freedom granted is false and, above all, is granted from above and not won from below. Therefore, the people does not live sexual freedom, instead they adapt to a freedom which is granted to them. (…) “Repressive societies repress everything, therefore men can do anything” , but I have added this concept which for me is lapidary: permissive societies permit a few things and only those things can be done.
That is terrible.

The consumerist couple

P.P.P.: Then this great freedom in heterosexual couples, (..) since it is granted it has become obligatory (…) therefore he feels obliged to always be part of a couple, and the couple has become a nightmare an obsession, instead of a freedom.
Have you noticed how fashionable couples are today? But it is a completely false and insincere couple, (…) what is this sudden romanticism? you may ask. Nothing. It is simply the new couple as revived by consumerism, because this consumerist couple buys. Hand in hand they go to La Rinascente, to Upim…

Europe and the Third World: the possible non existence of history: the modern world will be the synthesis between….

P.P.P.: Besides the anarchy of power, my film is about the possible non-existence of history, that is in contrast with history, as seen by the Euro-centric culture, that is middle class rationalism or empiricism on the one hand and Marxism on the other .
(…) And so how does a nation like France stand on this flood of irrationality which arrives in the wake of the Third World, a world of hunger?

The Third World population precisely because they’ve been repressed (…) like all marginal areas have preserved an earlier sort of culture, which in some way was prehistoric in nature. France sets itself as tamer (ammaestratrice) of rationality to the colonial populations. In fact it educates them very well. France has taken nothing from them it has only given. It gave a model of education, rationality, civilization, but it did not know how to learn anything from them because this religious, irrational, prehistoric type that the Third World brings with it cannot be rationalized. Therefore the French must modify their reason if they want to understand, if they don’t want to remain behind. Paris is a marvellous city that I admire (…) but you feel that it is farther away, more remote and archaic than a little city of any developing nation.

The modern world will be the synthesis between today’s middle- class western world and the world of the underdeveloped nations that are meeting history now, that is, western rationality will be modified by the presence of another type of world vision that these people express.

The anthropological mutation

P.P.P.: Modernity consists in this modification. It is true that man is always the same, but it is also true that he changes. Now more than ever because at this moment we are threatened by a real anthropological mutation. The true apocalypse is that technology, the era of applied science, will transform man into something different from what he was before. Something has happened now that has no equivalent in the history of man. And we are terrified by the idea that our children and descendants will no longer be like us. It’s a sort of end of the world.

Culture saves from consumerism : I am privileged

P.P.P.: but the real sense of sex in my film is a metaphor of the relation between power with its subject. Therefore, in reality, it is true for all times. (..) I detest, above all things, today’s power. Everyone hates the power he is subject to. Therefore, I hate the power of today, of 1975, with particular vehemence. It is a power that manipulates the bodies in a horrible way, (…) it manipulates them, transforming their conscience, in the worst way, establishing new values which are alienating and false The values of consumerism, which accomplish (compiono) what Marx called genocide of the living, real previous cultures. For example, it has destroyed Rome. The Romans no longer exist. (…) Then this type of change has spread the ideology of consumeristic hedonism amongst the Italians, an ideology which is perhaps stupidly, secular and rational. It is nearsighted, narrow. This ideology affects all of Italians, intellectuals included. (…) I also participate in this ideology, in a certain sense (…) I, too, in a certain sense, tend towards superfluous goods. Except that I save myself from all this thanks to culture, etc., in this I am privileged. However the enormous mass of the Italians has fully fallen into this mechanism. Values have fallen and they have been replaced by others. Behaviour models have fallen and were then replaced by others. This replacement was not the will of the people, but it was imposed by the consumerist power, held by the large Italian multi-national industry and even by the national one, made up of pseudo industrialists, that wanted the Italians to consume a certain type of goods in a certain way. And to consume them they had to create another human model. An old farmer, traditionalist and religious did not consume junk food advertised on television. In reality the producers force the consumers to eat shit. They give adultered, bad things, little robiola cheeses, (…) that are shit.

The anarchy of power

P.P.P.: Power remains exactly the same only its characteristics change, the subject is no longer parsimonious or religious, he is a consumer and so he is short sighted, irreligious, secular, etc. The cultural characteristic change, but the relationship is identical.

Therefore it is a film not only about power, but about what I call “The anarchy of power”. Nothing is more anarchic than power. Power does what it wants and what it wants is totally arbitrary or dictated by its economic reasons which escape common logic.

Aggressiveness and consumerism

P.P.P.: Both Christianity and Marxism have been always been imposed from above, they have never come from below. The principle of submission might be a bit similar to Marx’s (perhaps he means Freud?) death instinct, no? Co-existent with the aggressive spirit of love. In my opinion, it continued to exist unchanged under Christianity, because Christianity had quickly become the State religion that is from the dominating class and it was imposed, therefore it did not change these profound instincts. instead the only ideological system which has truly involved the dominated class as well is consumerism, because it is the only one that went all the way, which gives a certain aggressiveness, because this aggressiveness is necessary to consumption. If one is purely submissive, he follows the pure instinct of submission like an old farmer who would lower his head in resignation, which is a sublime act like heroism. Now this spirit of resignation, of submission no longer exists, how can a consumer be resigned or accept a, so to speak, archaic, backward and inferior state? He must fight to raise his social status. “I lower my head in the name of God” is already a great phrase While now, the consumer does not even know he lowers his head, to the contrary he stupidly believes he has not lowered it and that he has won his rights. (…) instead is a poor fool.

Ancient rituals and modern rituals

P.P.P.: Power is always a codifier and ritual. But which ritualizes which codifies is always nothingness, pure will, that is, its own anarchy.

Men were in need of a myth. However, in the average farming world myths were always relived through rituals. The Mass was a ritual which, for millenniums, crystallized a religious creed.

All the ancient religions can be summarized in one model, that of the eternal return: death and then resurrection. Death and resurrection, of nature, grass, harvests…. This eternal return no longer has any sense for modern man. The seasonal cycle has been replaced by infinite cycles of production and consumption, the bicycle, the automobile, the clothing…. There are many small cycles. Produce and consume, produce and consume is an artificial cycle, rather then natural, but still a cycle.Today rituals are of another type, for example lining up in front of a TV or waiting in a queue of cars on the week end or going on a pic nic in a field. Every power has its forms of ritual. One of the features of the disappearance of the myth and the ancient farmer ritual, replaced by industrialization, is the disappearance of initiation. For the Catholic religion, puberty had Communion and Confirmation, which now no longer have any weight, they no longer have any meaning. Now there is no initiation because a newborn is already a consumer. There is no initiation into the consumerist society. The young people have the same authority as consumers as the elders do.

Man is a conformist

P.P.P.: Man has always been a conformist. His main characteristic is that of conforming to any type of power or quality of life he finds at birth. Perhaps biologically man is narcissist, rebellious, he loves his own identity etc. but it’s society that makes him conformist and he’s lowered his head once and for all, before the obligations of society. I don’t believe there will ever be a society in which man is free.

G.B.: Hope …..

P.P.P.: So it is futile to hope so.

P.P.P.: But, we must never hope in anything. Hope is a terrible thing, invented by the parties to keep their members happy.

Cinema expresses reality through reality: films are dreams

P.P.P.: I don’t write like I used to, which is the same as saying that I no longer write. At first when I began to make films, I thought it was only the adoption of a different technique, I would almost say of a different literary technique. Then instead I realized bit by bit that it was the adoption of a different language! (…) But there’s another truth perhaps more complicated and profound: language expresses reality through a sign system. Instead the director expresses reality through reality. Maybe this is the reason why I like cinema and I prefer it to literature, because in expressing reality as reality I continuously work and live at the level of reality. A poet uses the word “flower” but where does he take it from? He takes it from the language of men which we use in communicating. Instead, what other language are images based on? They are based on the images of dreams and memories. (…) Then cinema has its foundations, its roots in a completely irrational, irrationalist language: dreams, memory and reality seen as hard fact. Therefore, an image is infinetely more dreamlike (onirica), then a word. In the end when you see a film it seems like a dream. (…)

P.P.P.: I want to edit it perfectly. This film must almost be a crystal at the end, formally. (…) I always try to obtain formal perfection, which I use as a wrapping for the terrible things of De Sade and of Fascism.

(…) If I believed that my cinema were totally integrated into a society that also wanted the kind of films that I make, maybe I wouldn’t make them. But I am convinced that there is something that can’t be integrated. Middle-class society amalgamates, assimilates, digests all. But in every work where individuality and singularity stand out along with originality and violence, there is something that can’t be integrated.

Everything happens in the individual ( E’ nel singolo che tutto avviene)

G.B.: Who is this film for?

P.P.P.: In general, for everyone, for another me. It is true the masses alienate and alter art when the latter is commercialized and proposed to them in a certain way, but the masses are still made up of individuals. And so, in a theatre, in a social ritual, let’s say, where my film is proposed to the masses in this way etc., in these theatres, in fact, there are individuals. The individual internalizes the world’s problem (il singolo è l’elaboratore dei problemi del mondo). Everything happens in the individual ( E’ nel singolo che tutto avviene). I attribute to the others, even those most constrained, most enslaved by social customs, the chance, in any case, to understand a work in their way, at their level. I have this faith in human freedom that I wouldn’t know how to rationalize. But I realize that, if things continue like this, man will become mechanized, so conformist, so unpleasant and hateful that this freedom will be completely lost.

Sacred vision of things

P.P.P.: When I look at things, I have a rational, critical eye that I take from my secular culture, middle class, and then Marxist. Therefore there is a continuous critical exercise of my reason over world events. But my real vision, the older, more archaic one, given me at birth and shaped in my early childhood, my original vision is a sacred vision of things (è uno sguardo sacrale sulle cose).

P.P.P.: In the end I see the world like those who have a poetic vocation do, that is like a miraculous, almost sacred fact. And nothing can desecrate my fundamental sacredness. I think that no artist in any society is free. Being crushed by the normality and by the mediocrity of any society in which he lives, the artist is a living contestation. He always represents the contrary of the idea that everyman in every society has of himself. In my opinion a minimum, perhaps immeasurable, margin of freedom is always there. I can’t say to what point this is, or is not freedom. But certainly, something escapes the mathematical logic of mass culture, for the time being.
I do and I don’t

G.B.: What must we do, in the meantime?

P.P.P.: What must we do? Be coherent with our ideas and try to do that minimum part that each of us can do. What do you want to do?

G.B.: In short…. believe?

P.P.P.: Even not believe! As long as not believing is dynamic! One who doesn’t believe and makes his unbelief a banner comes to something. The true reality is that contemporary man does not and does believe.

G.B.: But does Pasolini believe or doesn’t he?

P.P.P.: I do and I don’t (credo e non credo) This is my answer.

Tutta l’opera di Pasolini scrittore e regista è ispirata a un vocativo che potrebbe suonare “Perché non si dimentichi di ciò che è stato e di ciò che è, sempre che qualcosa sia” (E.Siciliano, Vita di Pasolini, Mondadori, 2005, p.465)

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L'autore di insegna letteratura italiana. Nel 2013 ha creato questo sito per le sue lezioni in classe. "Λήθη γάρ επιστήμης ̉έξοδος" (Platone, Simposio 208, 4-5)