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Nobody had ever seen a film like Theorem when it arrived on European screens in 1968, and its huge success took Pasolini’s cultural standing to a new level.
From its fake-newsreel opening to a narrative which ‘innocently’ echoes the form of the Catholic mass, this is the film in which Pasolini let it all hang out: his scepticism about religious faith, his homosexuality, his hatred of ‘bourgeois values’ and his declining confidence in political solutions. Terence Stamp (at the peak of his beauty, fresh from facing the devil in Fellini’s Toby Dammit) plays a mysterious visitor to an upper-middle-class family in Milan. What if, Pasolini asks, each member of the household – father, mother, son and daughter, not forgetting the maid – were to be seduced and then abandoned by the visitor?
How would each of them react, and what would become of their lives? The title suggests something quasi-scientific, but the fuel in Pasolini’s tank is satire, not algebra. Existential anguish was never more playful.
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