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Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Produced in 1968
Main Language - Italian with English subtitles
As baffling and tantalising as the day it was first released, Theorem ranks alongside Last Year in Marienbad and Blow-Up as one of the great 1960s art-movie puzzles, writes Michael Brooke.
The Italian title, Teorema, translates as ‘theorem’, or a statement whose accuracy can be demonstrated by mathematical argument. Put simply, if X happens, then Y must inevitably follow. X in this case is Terence Stamp at his most smouldering, playing an unnamed ‘guest’ who suddenly comes to stay with an outwardly successful bourgeois family (industrialist Paolo, wife Lucia, artist son Pietro, philosopher daughter Odetta) and individually seduces them all, including their maid Emilia. Exactly half-way through the film, he departs equally abruptly, whereupon the Y part begins, as we watch the fate of this quintet played out in pitiless detail after their lives have been turned upside down. Being not only working class but also of rural peasant stock, Emilia (Laura Betti) naturally fares best, but the other four find themselves exposed as helplessly reliant on a system that was already coming under attack as the film was being made (it was shot in early 1968, as the students were starting to man the barricades in real life). Each family member has his or her own specific reason for their ultimate breakdown, their stories woven by Pasolini into a complex tapestry of social, cultural, political and sexual collapse in the face of the inexplicable. If the many religious and spiritual overtones seem surprising in a film by an avowedly Marxist atheist, this is after all the man who made The Gospel According To Matthew only four years earlier. The BFI's DVD neatly balances analysis and anecdote in the form of a well-researched commentary by Pasolini expert Robert Gordon and a fascinating interview with Stamp that's often brutally candid about his experience of working with Pasolini – or rather for, as the director apparently never said a word to him on set. But in a film whose dialogue is kept to a bare minimum (and deliberately recorded in English and dubbed into Italian to create a sense of distance), that's strangely appropriate. As baffling, haunting and tantalising as the day it was first released, Teorema ranks alongside Last Year in Marienbad and Blow-Up as one of the great 1960s art-movie puzzles.
Michael Brooke on 5th September 2007
Author of 154 reviews
In Pasolini's Theorem, a handsome, enigmatic stranger (Terence Stamp) arrives at a bourgeois household in Milan and successfully seduces each family member, not forgetting the maid. Then, as abruptly and mysteriously as he arrive, he departs. Unable to endure the void left in their lives, the father (Massimo Girotti) hands over his factory to the workers, the son abandons his vocation as a painter, the mother (Silvana Mangano) abandons herself to random sexual encounters, and the daughter sinks into catatonia. However, the maid (Laura Betti, Best Actress, Venice 1968) becomes a saint.
In this cool, richly complex and provocative political allegory Pasolini uses his schematic plot to explore family dynamics, the intersection of class and sex, and the nature of different sexualities. After winning a prize at Venice Festival, Theorem was subsequently banned on an obscenity charge, but Pasolini later won an acquittal on grounds of the film's 'high artistic value.'
Length: 94 mins
Aspect ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 27th September 2007
Cat No: BFIVD741
- Digitally restored. Feature commentary by Italian film expert Robert Gordon
- Exclusive filmed interviewed with Terence Stamp
- Fully illustrated 14-page booklet including an essay by Italian film expert Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, review by Philip Strick from 1969 and biographies of Pasolini and Stamp.