Director-Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring-Terence Stamp, Silvana Mangano
Scott’s Review #234
Reviewed April 10, 2015
Teorema is a 1968 Italian art film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who later would go on to direct the dark and disturbing 1975 masterpiece, Salo- 120 Days of Sodom. If one is looking for a concise, mainstream plot with a fixed, to-the-point, beginning and ending, one will be disappointed. Rather, Teorema is an exhibition in artistic style and interpretation and succeeds in mesmerizing this viewer in thought and contemplation.
A mysterious stranger, simply known as “the visitor”, suddenly arrives to stay with an affluent, Italian family in their sprawling estate. The family consists of a father, mother, son, daughter, and maid, all with issues of loneliness, boredom, fear, rage, or repression. The handsome stranger successfully beds all members of the family and just as suddenly as he arrives, he then disappears from the household leaving the family members with different thoughts, feelings, and actions upon his departure.
The film is highly interpretive and every character can be analyzed. All of the characters are seduced by the stranger and the family’s wealth can be studied. Is Teorema (which translates to the theorem in Italian) a commentary on the bourgeois society? The father, Paolo, owns a factory and appears to be in turmoil- is he a repressed homosexual?
The conclusion of the father’s story is very interesting as he turns his factory over to the workers, strips naked, and roars with anger and frustration. Is the mother simply a wealthy, bored housewife or much more than that? This character might have been explored more thoroughly.
The maid, devoutly religious, becomes suicidal after her tryst with the stranger. The others confide in the stranger about how they feel about themselves and, at times, the film is like watching a therapy session as each character delves more into their own personal feelings.
Only the maid is a bit different than the others, but could this be because she is of working-class and the others affluent? The daughter, Odessa, approximately, sixteen years old, becomes depressed after her liaison. The frightened, weak son appears to have a crisis and is consoled by the stranger in a loving, tender fashion.
Interestingly, the film at the time was resoundingly denounced by the Vatican, who took offense at the controversial tone of the film and its focus on “obscenity”. Could this be because of some people’s interpretation of “the visitor” as being a Christ-like figure? One must argue the difference between “obscenity” and “art” after viewing this groundbreaking and visionary film.
Personally, I viewed Teorema as a thought-provoking experience and did not feel as if the film were going for shock value. Certainly, the film is lightweight in this regard compared to the hauntingly brutal Salo, which followed years later.
Teorema delves into the psychological abyss and portrays an Italian family as more than wealthy- they are people with emotions, fears, desires, and complexities. Certainly not for mainstream audiences, but meant for lovers of interpretive film, it can be debated and discussed for ages to come.