(out of series) Teorema (321 Lindley, Film Studies 1, Film Auhtors: Pier Paolo Pasolini)

The theorem of Teorema simply proves that the the bourgeoisie must be utterly abolished in a way that prevents it from absorbing the whole of humanity. In the opening sequence factory workers hold a press conference after having been given a factory by Paolo, the father of the film’s family. They have to grapple with the question of whether the donation eliminates the possibility of revolution and serves to turn them into bourgeois subjects. In other words, they have to deal wit the fact that they still must labor and consume — that they have not been able to destroy capitalist chains of valuation. Clearly that question articulates the “other side” of Pasolini’s idea that neoliberalism effected an “anthropological mutation” among Italians. In the 1970s, Pasolini would argue that what he referred to as “neo-capitalism” or “consumer society” had transformed the sub-proletariat into murderous idiots. At this stage (1968,) Pasolini constructs the mutation as a tendency of the working class to identify with the values of the bourgeoisie via self-management. In that sense, the film can be understood as a critique of Operismo. When the state or the dominant class gives workers the means of production, or when they seize them without destroying them, they become their own bosses and oppress themselves.

The film goes on to portray a visitation of god the father, in the form of Terrance Stamp,  to a bourgeois family. He comes to utterly destroy the familial institution by releasing the power of queer non-procreative sex within it. Pietro, the son, gets to sleep with a man despite his conditioning, Lucia the mother gets to finally have sex, Emilia, the maid, gets to make love, Odetta, the daughter fulfills her incestuous drive by fucking the father and Paolo gets to realize his need for a young man. Once the stranger leaves, the family members play out their  differences in ways that make the archaic and fundamental site of bourgeois reproduction, the family, fall apart. Pietro becomes a painter who has half seen through art and aesthetics, and must move into a suitable garret to run himself into the ground. Odetta becomes catatonic as befits a girl for whom there’s nothing left. Lucia obsessively cruises for more sex. Paolo strips in a train station to show the world who he really is. Emilia returns to her peasant origins and becomes a saint who re-figures Pasolini’s poem Il Pianto della Scavatrice.

The pink dessert that constitutes the film’s other space functions as the potentialized nowhere after the imagined destruction of the bourgeoisie by an outside force. In a society that has abolished all difference, the only utopia is unimaginable. Basically, Teorema accomplishes the impossible task of remaking Deserto Rosso in a world capable of exteriority. (In the 1964 essay “The Cinema Of Poetry” Pasolini critques the Antonioni film for it’s interiorizing use of the pretextual free indirect.) In the actual world that Teorema abandons after its first sequence, the working class is left to abolish itself, or if we’re really lucky, to be abolished by the wretched of the earth, for here, there is no god to come fuck us. How to accomplish that destruction is what Deleuze calls the film’s  “question I cannot answer.”

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