Well, here it is. The day has finally come. I can honestly say that I’ve been dreading having to watch this film since pretty much when I started this quest. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve been using a random number generator to randomly pick my films for me is because I did not want to have to actually choose to watch this. Well, someone at the 1001 Club went ahead and picked this, hilariously enough for Valentine’s Day, so I guess I owe them at least a mild thanks for making me finally get this out of the way. I know of many people who have seen stuff like A Serbian Film or The Human Centipede; films I absolutely refuse to watch, and thus condone the filmmaker’s efforts. But, having been forced to watch this basically against my will, I will say this: it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. But then again, that is likely wholly because of how my brain approached the film.
If you don’t know or have never heard of this film, the plot should give you your first indication or red flag that this may not be for you, or for anyone. It involves a group of rich fascist Italians engaging in a secret ritual for unknown reasons, which involves marrying each other’s daughters and kidnapping nine young boys and nine young girls to a palace in the countryside for 120 days of torture and debauchery. The film starts out almost deceptively meek, rolling what can best be described as smooth jazz over the opening credits, as if this film were nothing but a care in the world, and then opening on a lovely pan of the town in question. Then, in a scene a few minutes later, a group of guards come into a room with the daughters in question, and one promptly walks up and spits in one of the girls’ face. Red flag #2. And then the young’uns are rounded up, herded to the palace, and explained the rules. And from there, the actual film begins, which consists largely of some of the captors regaling tales to the young folks, tales which consist entirely of the most depraved actions, pretty much all of them, that the human mind can possibly conceive of. During these tales, the young victims are subjected to degradations of a mostly sexual nature, though there is one section of the film appropriately titled “Circle of Shit” that consists of a few scenes of coprophagia, and if you don’t know what that word means I will spare you the definition. Really, except for the aforementioned section, the film was a lot tamer than I was expecting. I was expecting it to be this constant, non-stop, all-out orgy of despicable and disgusting actions for virtually the entire two-hour runtime, but it wasn’t. It was, amazingly, more reserved than that, only giving us bits and pieces of the depravity one at a time, instead of the deluge I thought the film was going to be. Not that that should be seen as a recommendation, though; the film is still highly in the running for the most disgusting film ever put to celluloid, but it wasn’t overwhelming 100% of the time, which enabled me to actually get through the whole thing. The one compliment that I’d heard about this film was that, at the very least, it was well made for what it was. I, however, did not get that perception. Frankly, despite that this was made in the 1970s, I actually think I could take the same material and subject matter and make a better made film from it than Salo. Not that I would, though. I do still have a little bit of humanity left.
Here’s the thing about my viewing of Salo, that I figured out some time while I was watching the film and decided to completely leave alone to do its thing: none of what is seen in the film is really, actually happening. That it was a fictional film was just the layer of protection my mind needed to remain largely whole on the other end of my viewing of this one, and again, even after figuring that self-defense mechanism out, I left it alone, since it was working out well for me. Still, I couldn’t help but think that there was no way Salo could possibly be made in today’s filmmaking age. That the filmmakers were able to make a film like this, even in the 1970s, is baffling. That they got the actors to agree to do this film is nothing short of appalling. What’s even more amazing is that the credits told me the musical score was done by none other than Ennio Morricone, which was probably the most mind-boggling. I will say, though, that the main reason this isn’t getting a lower score from me was because it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, and for very few other reasons (one of which being just another middle finger to the one film I have given a lower score to). Still, even with the protection of that fourth wall my mind constructed, a little part of my soul has been taken from me, abused and tortured and raped like the young folks of Salo. To imagine what has been done to it is to relive the events of the film. I don’t think I want it back.
Arbitrary Rating: 2/10