To Give Birth in Salò and Sade's <i>The 120 Days of Sodom</i>

Armando Maggi

in The Resurrection of the Body

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780226501345
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226501369 | DOI:
To Give Birth in Salò and Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom

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Petrolio and Salò are premised on the same concept of giving birth to a form, where form means not only a new narrative form, but also the form of a schizophrenic space closed off from the world, and the mute form of a stillborn fetus. Salò is the representation of the “diluted reel of film” projected in the schizophrenic's mind. A close reading of the film in the light of Sade's vast, unfinished novel, The 120 Days of Sodom, shows how Pasolini interprets and appropriates the Sadian obsession with nature and motherhood, which are seen as the libertine's two fiercest enemies. In particular, Pasolini focuses on two major characters of Sade's novel: Constance, the pregnant daughter of one of the four libertines, and Sophie, the victim whose mother died in the attempt to save her from the libertines. At the end of Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom, Constance is slaughtered, and her stillborn baby is extracted from her belly. Merging these two female figures, Pasolini creates the character of Renata, one of the female victims who stands out throughout the film as the symbolic representation of the mother (Constance) and the daughter. Salò differs from Pasolini's previous visual and verbal works centered on a nostalgia for the mother in that along with the dead mother the film evokes the image of her stillborn fetus, that inferior matter that the Sadian libertines equate with feces and sperm.

Keywords: Pier Paolo Pasolini; nature; motherhood; libertine; Salò; The 120 Days of Sodom; stillborn fetus; Sade

Chapter.  37813 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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