Set in the Nazi-controlled, northern Italian state of Salo in 1944, four dignitaries round up sixteen perfect specimens of youth and take them together with guards, servants and studs to a palace near Marzabotto. In addition, there are four middle-aged women: three of whom recount arousing stories whilst the fourth accompanies on the piano. The story is largely taken up with their recounting the stories of Dante and De Sade: the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Shit and the Circle of Blood. Following this, the youths are executed whilst each libertine takes his turn as voyeur.
The notorious final film from Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom has been called nauseating, shocking, depraved, pornographic . . . It’s also a masterpiece. The controversial poet, novelist, and filmmaker’s transposition of the Marquis de Sade’s eighteenth-century opus of torture and degradation to Fascist Italy in 1944 remains one of the most passionately debated films of all time, a thought-provoking inquiry into the political, social, and sexual dynamics that define the world we live in.