Theorem (1968) – Pier Paolo Pasolini 


The dive into the drama genre continues with this recommendation from my viewing of Last Tango in Paris for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book. There are only 923 spoken words in the entire film, and for the most part, they don’t give a lot of indication of what is really going on in the plot. I can openly admit when some things are over my head and this one, may take repeated viewings before I can walk away with a complete understanding of it.

Forewarned of the Visitor’s (Terence Stamp) arrival, a rather dull, well off Italian family finds itself receiving joy, love, and satisfaction of their needs when the man gets there. Conveying a joyful persona which may be divine/demonic/or that of just a friend (we never get a definition of who he actually is), the Visitor, beginning with the maid, Emilia (Laura Betti – undeniably the strongest performance in the film), he seduces (though this sounds like it’s a manipulation, and I don’t believe it was) each of the members of the household, man and woman.

He fills their days and nights with delights, until he announces that he must leave. At that point the family falls into disarray, the daughter (Anne Wiazemsky) goes mad, the son, (Andres Jose Cruz Soublette) can no longer create, the wife (Silvana Mangano) can no longer find sexual gratification, and the father (Massimo Girotti) goes mad in his own way. Only the maid comes through relatively unscathed emotionally, becoming almost a saint, as she awaits the return of the miracle but becomes her own. (Perhaps a commentary on the working class, while the bourgeois stagnate?)


Filled with symbolism, religion, satire, and incredibly experimental, this is not a film that goes easy on the viewer. There are layers at work here, and as I waded through them, I caught a few, but no doubt missed just as many if not more.

Pasolini’s style takes some getting used to, and this may not have been the best film for me to start with in that regard, but it was the recommended one, so here I am. Stamp, for his part, is tonally perfect, his piercing eyes and white sweater seem to convey a divinity, and I guess it depends on one’s beliefs when it comes to sex and corruption, ecstasy and misery if he was an angel or devil.

By film’s end, I was left sitting there, as the husband wanders naked in the wilds, not quite scratching my head, but trying to gently piece together what I had seen. I do like a film that challenges me, and now, as I write this, the more I think about it, the more I find I’m getting from it.

I may have to go back for another visit. Have you seen this one?







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