Sunday, September 18, 2011

Teorema: Propositions At The Core Of Integrity

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s works have always been controversial and Teorema has proven to be no exception although anyone who has seen his other films namely Salo would have to agree that Teorema is one of his relatively more tame and restrained films. Nonetheless, it has the ability to elicit responses from its audience ranging from shock to plain bewilderment. The film proves to be elusive to one central interpretation but perhaps it was intended to be that way. In my personal opinion, the strongest reaction that the film can draw out from its viewers is bewilderment and discussing the film has proven to be a challenging task. As such, this entry will employ three general frameworks namely Freudian psychoanalysis, Marxist class analysis and religion, and post-modernism as guides in an attempt to provide a coherent discussion.

The plot is enough to attract an audience. A mysterious and nameless stranger, played by Terence Stamp, is welcomed as a visitor to a conventional and upper-class Milanese family which is comprised of a father, mother, son, and daughter. He proceeds to have sex with each member of the household including the servant Emilia. Given the plot, people are probably anticipating a salacious movie but they are in for a disappointment because the sex scenes are far from explicit although this did not stop charges of obscenity at the time the film was made in 1968. This is because sex is only a metaphorical tool used by Pasolini to bring about the main part of the film which holds the central theme. Though these sex scenes hold an integral role in what Pasolini wants to convey, it is the scenes that follow the departure of the Guest in the middle of the film that proves to be more crucial and more effective in drawing out stronger reactions like disbelief and bewilderment.

After their sexual encounters with the Guest, each member of the household is thrown from his/her comfort zone and copes with the void that the Guest left behind. The servant Emilia leaves the household and returns to her rural hometown, becomes a miracle worker and is soon sanctified by the villagers for performing these miracles. On the other hand, the family breaks apart and is plunged into making existential self-assessments. The timid daughter Odetta, falls into a catatonic state while her brother Pietro who is a painter, deviates from his usual repertoire and isolates himself from the family by making artworks no one is able to understand. Lucia, their mother proceeds to pick up young men who resemble the Guest and engages in sexual liaisons with them. Finally, Paolo, the family patriarch who is a factory owner, decides to strip himself of all his possessions and takes it to the highest level by giving his factory to his workers and by disrobing in a busy station before taking off to run about in the desert. These scenes appear to be the cathartic response of the family members after the Guest pulls them from their life of conventions, order, and worldly possessions.

Pasolini makes use of minimal dialogue lines. If it weren’t for the brilliant soundtrack of Ennio Morricone, one would’ve mistaken the movie to be a silent film. Each scene occurs with no warning as opposed to conventional films where the climax is a culmination of events that makes it predictable. This is what makes discerning the film challenging. Therefore, frameworks for understanding must be used. Before anything, Pasolini’s work is not complete without a Marxist analysis given his communist leaning and his outspoken criticisms of industrial societies and consumerism. Using Marxism and incorporating the concept of God, the film can be seen as a critique of a bourgeois society shaped by industrial values. Given that the basic unit of society is the family which Pasolini views as a bourgeois structure, an upper-class family in Milan, which is the industrial center of Italy, breaks down after the Guest’s appearance. The film heavily hints that the Guest is an allegorical reference to God which has shocked religious groups given the Guest’s sexual nature. Some have proposed that he is a devilish seducer who breaks down families although given Pasolini’s orientation towards the family, the first proposition seems more likely. In an interview, Pasolini reveals that it is not important to understand Teorema and that he leaves it to the audience to decide for themselves who the Guest might be. The important thing is that he is a sacred and supernatural being, not necessarily a Catholic God, but a god regardless of religion (Flatley par. 6). Using content analysis as a methodology, Pasolini’s interviews reveal that because of industrialization, the family members are now incapable of recognizing what is sacred in contrast to the servant who comes from a pre-industrial society and is able to fully absorb the capacity for working miracles (par. 9). It is apparent that Pasolini is partisan towards the servant because of her peasant background which he favors. On the other hand, a bourgeois structure like the family, who cannot recognize the sacred because of their consumerist tastes, conventional values, and preference for material gains, cannot resolve their predicament. My main critique of the film however, is that in his preference of Emilia’s peasant background, Pasolini is inadvertently romanticizing the peasant condition with its simple but superior lifestyle which is divorced from the true conditions in reality. Hunger continues to be a primordial problem and it is highly doubtful if this can be addressed by feeding on nettles like Emilia. It may also cultivate false hope among the working class by planting the notion that one only has to cling to the purely simple peasant lifestyle in order for miracles to occur. Epidemic health conditions continue to hound these poor communities and making them believe that divine miracles will be their panacea institutes learned helplessness and passivity. This contradicts the Marxist stand that religion is the opium of the people.

While a Marxist framework provides a structure of explanation for the film, it barely helps the audience in clarifying the actions of the family members after the Guest’s departure. Each character’s actions must be assessed as a function of his membership under the larger frame of society. This is where I would propose Freudian psychoanalysis to address the gaps left by the Marxist framework. Each character in the film is essentially experiencing repression before the Guest’s arrival. According to Freud, their id which adheres to the pleasure principle has been so repressed to give way to their superego which ensures compliance with the standards of society. Because of their ego’s inability to find a balance between the two, the characters fall into a state of psychosis. The use of repression in Teorema refers to a dual conceptual definition. It is political because it forcefully censors what has been considered unacceptable and psychological because it is a process in which unacceptable desires are excluded from the consciousness and left suppressed in the unconscious (Peterson 215). Emilia’s devotion to her religion has made her suppress carnal desires which she might have viewed as a cardinal sin but as implied by the first framework, she was able to overcome this conflict because her peasant background allows her to recognize what is sacred. The family members are not so fortunate. Odetta, who is hinted to harbour an Elektra complex towards her father, is able to divert these forbidden desires with the Guest. She becomes catatonic as she is reverted back to her former state of repressing this taboo. Meanwhile, Pietro repressed his homosexuality to avoid condemnation from his peers and a society which views it as a pathological condition. As a result, he has ensured through his postmodern artworks that he cannot be judged. Lucia repressed her sexual proclivity to maintain the image of a chaste bourgeois wife and to conform to expectations of a woman whose life revolves around her family. She then finds consolation by picking up random young men as she comes to terms with these desires. Finally, the father whose whole life is anchored on material goods and a conformist family life based on the societal measure of a man’s success, breaks down and strips himself of everything in the most literal sense in an attempt to find his true identity, free from the dictates of societal standards.

The last framework in the attempt to analyze the film is based on postmodernism. The film exhibits one of the most ambiguous features that a movie can have and this deviates from the modernist view where a central Truth, order, and unity are required. Through Pasolini’s deconstructionist style, he uses the film to challenge conventional notions of family life, economic prosperity, and life aspirations. Standards are now expunged and there are now no judgments to be meted out. Pasolini hints that the family members are better off leading a life faced with conflict and contradictions which is better than a life of alienation and false consciousness under the hegemonic worldview of seeing economic prosperity and family life as the ultimate aspiration and valuing conspicuous consumption. The title Teorema is apt for it refers to something that must be proven. As the central Truth of each family member collapses after the Guest’s appearance in their lives, they are compelled to engage in dialectics to overthow their former condition. The central Teorema has now collapsed and each member must find his own teorema.


Flatley, Guy. N.d. “Pier Paolo Pasolini - The Atheist Who was Obsessed with God.” Accessed on 15, September 2011.

Peterson, Thomas. “The Allegory of Repression from Teorema to Salo,” Italica Vol. 73, No. 2, Summer 1996: 215-232

- Faysah Abdullah


Liane Candelario said...


A part of me wants to leave Pasolini’s Teorema alone. The reason is, when it comes to criticizing a postmodern work such as this one, a disclaimer should be set in place- that you lose by default.

The way I understand postmodernism can be summed up in two words. Profound abstraction. It’s profound because it wants to show the world while ironically detaching its methods from the conventions of reality. It’s abstract because it dismisses order, norms and all kinds of existing standards which a postmodernist see as both repressive and limiting of its freedom (freedom being the prerequisite tool to achieve such postmodernist visions). I get it that Teorema contains underlying themes about a Marxist society and more, but I think the overarching umbrella that covers the entirety of the film is the method to which it was created- postmodernism to be exact.

Therefore, I would approach this commentary quite different than the rest of my previous commentaries. I want to comment based on how I digested the film (reactions, emotions, reflections etc.) and not on the attempt of trying to get a foothold of the film and its intentions.

Like I said, I don’t want to lose by default. I’m going to explain that statement by simply saying that I find it pointless subject a postmodern work to an analytical criticism. When we criticize we put ourselves on the platform of our preconceived notion of normativism- of what ‘ought to be’. The thing is, postmodernism doesn’t operate on such. Actually, I think it operates on nothing but itself alone. This is where I’d like to cite what Ms. Abdullah has written above, that “Pasolini reveals that it is not important to understand Teorema and that he leaves it to the audience to decide for themselves who the Guest might be”. I repeat, it’s not important to know what it is. If that’s the case, what then is important? Following the command of Pasolini, it’s what you decide that matters. And I’m going to head that advice.

In Teorema, the Guest appeared as a center of fixation not just to the family and to the servant Emilia but also to me as a viewer. Of course it’s a premeditated kind of fixation, meaning Pasolini deliberately intended it that way when you look at how all information was withheld as to his whereabouts (even his name). So while all the members of the household where left with a void of his presence since his departure, as a viewer, I was left with a void towards his identity and his overall relevance. The hardest part is that I can’t seem to come into terms with regards to the Guest. It feels like he was the epitome of postmodernism in itself. Was he holy or satanic, innocent or conniving? I can’t tell. There is no ruling stick that can measure his value nor his identity. Like a postmodern art, you just have to take him on a profound level of abstraction. At this point, a definition deems to be unnecessary and suddenly, all standards disappeared into thin air when you put it side by side with the Guest. What’s even more frustrating is that apparently, he can do just that. His role appeared and disappeared out of thin air too.

In the absence of the Guest, Teorema magnified its level of complexity with all the equally perplexing methods that the household members applied to cope with their newfound self. It will be an obvious move to take the events thereafter on a symbolic level. Because clearly, a literal analysis would prove to be a dead end. Like all of us, our first level of film digestion touches the superficial or the literal, and most of the time we can deduce some sense of meaning. But in this case where the superficial context is to view a human being hover in mid-air, or a girl waste unexpectedly into a catatonic state, or a man stripping in public, the literal seems to be immaterial.

Liane Candelario said...


On a symbolic level, I find myself leaning to an interpretation that is not necessarily Marxist (though I am still recognizing its importance) but simply psychological in nature, specifically in terms of a humanistic approach. Here I call on not only Marx but the humanist Maslow and his infamous “self-actualization” which sits on the top tier of his pyramid. Take Emilia’s case for example. She was powerless in her profession and is limited in servitude to this rich bourgeoisie family. I don’t think it was coincidence that after the Guest’s departure, she became powerful in her own way as a miracle worker and now serves not only a single family, but a multitude of families (or even humanity as a whole the moment she decided to bury herself to weep for the world).

I wouldn’t go as far as labeling which of the characters have succeeded or failed in their own pursuits of self-actualization. My stand is that it’s an experience that shouldn’t be compared nor judged- an experience that belongs solely to an individual. Take the Son for example who pursued an unrecognizable form of artistic style. I consider myself an art enthusiast (yes, this is a tie-back) and yet I still am frustrated with regards to his masterpieces. But really, who am I to devalue it just because I couldn’t fathom its meaning? The Daughter is another story. Her sudden catatonic state came out of no where, and if I could raise an eyebrow (I don’t know how to by the way) believe me I would. I don’t even know if this is close to an intelligent guess, but somehow I perceived her catatonia was escapist in nature- she simply didn’t know how to move forward, so immobility was her way of coping. It felt a bit too easy for a mother. Once you’ve set a sexually repressed person lose, there’s no turning back from unleashing her carnal desires plus what seemed to be her fetish of going after men in the likeness of the Guest.

As for the Father who’ve stripped himself of everything (literally speaking), our very own Oblation comes to my mind. But this time, it’s not nudity in offering to the nation. This is an existential kind of nudity in the act of being ‘one with yourself’. It is just my own understanding of course. Have you ever felt alienated from yourself by the things you have? I couldn’t fully ground this argument, but somehow that’s how I relate to the Father.

With all the things that happened, and with all the ideas that needs to be taken in, the ending proved to be very apt. I feel like screaming too. Maybe just with my clothes on. #

Margaret Gallardo said...

Part I

To put it straight, this film is grueling to digest. Why? Because it challenges norms and other preconceived notions both in the reel and real world. The film is highly unconventional and, as Ms. Abdullah has mentioned, had it not been for the brilliant soundtrack of Ennio Morricone, one would’ve mistaken the movie for a silent film. Teorema offers its viewers a highly symbolic and intellectual look at the bourgeois milieu among others.

A young man, played by Terence Stamp, known only as “The Visitor” pays a visit to a wealthy family in Milan. In his short stay with them, he wreaks havoc among all the members of the household. The family was so enraptured by “The Visitor” that his departure caused, if I may borrow Lemony Snicket’s bestselling novel, a series of unfortunate events. He seduces everyone regardless of gender. The father, mother, son, daughter and the house help were all seemingly under his spell as they engage in sexual acts with “The Visitor”. In doing so, they are released from their sexual inhibitions. Their involvement with the stranger characterized as ethereal leads them to embark on different life altering journeys. He is described as “Christ-like” and his presence impacts the household in more ways than one. In my opinion, the film seemed like a parable in the sense that it aimed to give some sort of moral lesson in the end: it takes a sacred phenomenon, in this case it was an apparition, to cause an epiphany among the repressed.

The film opens with the father addressing his workers in the factory. The laborers and the members of his household have more in common than meets the eye. They are repressed and coast through life like robots: physically present but emotionally and, although arguably, mentally absent. Although their house is palatial in size, it feels more like a prison as the members of the household are all seemingly constrained. Both workers and the household recognize the value, or rather, the lack thereof of material possessions. Their eyes are opened to the reality that they are all capable of so much more. It is quite ironic how the family finds comfort in the prison-like home. The idea of finding comfort in the least likely form is enough to strengthen the film’s postmodern vibe.

Margaret Gallardo said...

Part II

The question of identity is central to the film. Who were they before, during, and after the arrival of the Guest?

Yes, “The Visitor” is an allegory for something sacred. Was he Christ or the Devil? One will never know. Pasolini acknowledges that “The Visitor” could also represent the devil despite his seemingly angelic physical attributes. The Interpretive approach must be taken when someone, me included, attempts to make sense of the film. Although Pasolini intended “The Visitor” to be abstruse in all senses, he left some breathing room for the audience. Breathing room in the sense that the viewers are able, or sometimes unable, to decide which role “The Visitor” should take. Everyone is busy wondering why “The Visitor” left so suddenly. Did anyone bother questioning his arrival in the first place? What was his purpose? What did he intend to achieve with his brief visit? This approach follows a certain premise: people act on their beliefs and preferences.

I would have to disagree with the previous comment that stated that taking the actions of the members of the household in a literal sense would yield no significant results. In my opinion, it is in this meaningless that we can deduce meaning. Odetta, Pietro, Lucia, Paolo and Emilia have their individual coping mechanisms. These mechanisms are the result of a tragic, life-altering event: the arrival of, sexual encounters with, and the immediate departure of “The Visitor”. Naturally, psychoanalysis should be employed to help make sense of what “The Visitor” has left behind. According to Freud, a major cause of tension is anxiety. Most of the members of the household experienced moral anxiety as they had a fear of violating values and accepted moral codes. The father may have experienced neurotic anxiety as his unconscious fear of the ID (primitive part of our personality) took over himself. In doing so, he stripped himself of his clothing and he returned to his primal manner of living. People under huge pressure and anxiety tend to distort, transform or falsify reality for certain things or phenomena to make sense in their eyes. That being said, when change occurs, people tend to look for something familiar or something that resembles what is familiar in order to grasp the situation and decide how to act from there. But how can you cope with change? There is no universally accepted answer as the idea of change itself is widely contested. As Heraclitus has stated, there is nothing permanent except change. Heraclitus, a Greek Philosopher, is famous for his doctrine with regard to change being the end all and be all of the universe.

Teorema is Italian for Theorem. Theorem is defined by the dictionary as a general proposition not self-evident but proved by a chain of reasoning. It could also refer to a truth established by means of accepted truths.

If only the film were as easy to define as its title.

Rosie said...

An unnamed Guest arrives at the home of a wealthy Milanese family. Seemingly without rhyme or reason he proceeds to make love to each one of them: the servant Emilia, the daughter Odetta, the son Pietro, the husband Paolo, and the wife Lucia. And when he suddenly leaves unprecedented chaos ensues, driving them all to varying brinks of madness. Nothing really makes sense until we assume that the Guest is actually the representation of the divine and the Milanese family represents the capitalist class. Pasolini's Teorema is a work that is as stunning as it is disconcerting.

Certainly one of the more difficult films we've taken up this semester, Teorema presents so many issues worth discussing. I will employ mostly the Marxist analysis which is the where the film is apparently grounded. We begin with Emilia, the servant, who after having sexual intercourse with the guest returns to her hometown and starts performing miracles. The Guest sees Emilia as special, treats her with a little more tenderness and speaks to her as an equal. That is the stark difference that Pasolini chooses to emphasize between the Guest and the members of the family. When she healed the peasant boy, I only assume that what Pasolini meant is that “Emilia had been touched by god.” Of course, this is debatable as we are not sure what the Guest actually represented: was he god or the devil?

At first it was difficult for me to process the premise itself; a worldly manifestation of divinity arrives and shows an upper-class family what they have been missing through sexual intercourse. Sex is, as Ms. Abdullah writes, heavily laden with norms. It is the perfect metaphor, albeit not the most comfortable one for many people. And perhaps that is why it is so effective. Even the emphasis on the Guest’s penis seems to be a part of the discourse on power and what is considered powerful.

An interesting part of the movie is that when Emilia leaves, she is replaced by another servant, who is also named Emilia. I believe Pasolini was trying to say that those who are better off treat those who work for them as completely replaceable. Servants like Emilia are thus nameless, and who they really are as people is irrelevant to the capitalist class. Emilia is Emilia is Emilia.

The daughter, Odetta, is not old enough to have committed the same "sins" associated with the capitalist class, and yet she is the one who slips into catatonic madness. The son, Pietro, retreats into a house presumably away from civilization and tries to create the best likeness of the Guest that he can, experimenting with media from paint to his own urine. The teenage girl cannot deal with the loss of the divinity she had just found and just becomes dead to the world, while the teenage boy tries to honor the divinity, create an image, perhaps even in order to show others. The wife, Lucia, reacted in a very interesting way to the loss of the divine in their home. Sex, as mentioned, is used as a metaphor for divine encounters. Lucia, instead of trying to find the Guest again, seeks sex elsewhere. She finds it first in a young man, a student, who she leaves after she gets the fix that she needs. But before long she realizes it is not enough, and she seeks more. This is the consumerist culture frequently associated with capitalism, wherein one needs more and more to compensate for the loss one feels inside, and too much is never enough. It’s not hard to imagine Lucia still driving around to this day.

Rosie said...

The husband, Paolo, after he is touched by the Divine questions many things about himself. He is rich, has a stable family, and yet he is ill, unhappy, and doubtful of his sexuality. After the encounter with the Guest he decides to give everything up; strips naked and runs to the desert with a primal scream.

The bottom line is that everything they knew broke down after they were touched by the divine, but in very different ways. Emilia broke away from servitude, while the members of the family struggled on their own. They didn’t seek help from each other, Lucia and Paolo weren’t even there when Odetta was lifted from her bed and onto a stretcher. I can only interpret this as the breakdown of the family and the emphasis on the self in modern capitalist societies.

Teorema affected me because there are indeed things we declare about ourselves and which we work so hard to prove. These teoremas help us define who we are and what we can and cannot do. But when they are disproved we feel defeated by ourselves because we realize we are not who we think we are, that we do not know ourselves after all. But perhaps Paolo’s primal scream isn’t the best response to a disproved teorema. What Pasolini showed through Emilia was reinvention. While I will not even pretend to begin to understand what Pasolini was trying to say through Emilia, I do understand the concept of reinvention. Emilia embraced her new teorema. She did not look for the divine power, nor pined for it or anything it resembled. Instead, she found her own way. And it is perhaps this capacity to reinvent ourselves that will pull us back from the brink of madness that the other characters experienced.

- Roseanne Ramirez

Bulawi said...

A stranger arrives at the home of a middle-class Italian family, proceeds to have some sort of sexual encounter with each of the members, departs and leaves the family in varying states of being seemingly different from what they were before the onset of the film; this sums up the whole hour and a half that I spent in front of my laptop watching Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema. Notwithstanding the fact that a number of frameworks have been employed by the blog entry so as to deconstruct the film, my first and strongest reaction to the film would just be a plain blank face and a whut statement.

The film’s use of dialogue, or the lack of it, contributes to the film’s absurdity as viewers are not given hints on what would happen next. The characters seemed to engage in their activities almost spontaneously without any explicit reason for doing so. Also, most of the dialogue is concentrated on the character’s monologues, as in that of the son while working with his points, or conversations shared with the stranger. This highlights the fact that something more than language pushed the characters to take part in the ensuing activities.

The film also employs its own share of symbolism, first, and most prominently, that of the desert as it was used mainly as a transition between scenes. This would suggest the cheesy emptiness of the family’s lives as they were so engrossed in commercial activities, as suggested by their economic standing, that they would have forgotten some other aspects of their lives. This vacuum is seemingly filled by the arrival of the stranger and the activities that commence between him and the family members. Still, the film continued to use the desert even after the departure of the stranger which suggests void he left the family in was bigger than the one before. This would be explained by the seemingly erratic behaviors and conditions exhibited by the different members of the family as they were constantly searching for something which comes close to replicating that which made them whole.

Also, as a reflection of Passolini’s leftist stance, it is also worthy to note that the servant was one, if not the most affected by her encounter with the stranger. She was not born into the family’s rich circumstances but was a regular worker. She meets the stranger first and after her encounter goes to a rural village where she only has a bunch of plants for sustenance and then proceeds to perform miracles and consequently be elevated to a godlike status. She, however, throws this away in the end as she requested to be buried alive to weep for the earth. On the other hand, the head of the family was reduced to nothingness. From being the father of a rich family and the top person of his company, he degenerates into this screaming beast in the wilderness, having lost or thrown away all his worldly possessions.

Inasmuch as the film was a worthy watch, I would still place it last if I were to rank the films shown in the class in order of preference.


Franco said...

Part 1
People say that a well-written movie is one that conveys a message without explicitly feeding the viewers with the point it aims to create through obvious rhetorics. But this film is way beyond the spectrum, judging by its generous use of metaphors.

As pointed out by Ms. Abdullah, one of the frameworks that can be used to interpret the film is postmodernism. And by looking at the film on a postmodern perspective, we can say that the attempt of interpreting the film would be personal for it would be very difficult to uncover the one single “intended” interpretation from Pasolini’s perspective.

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s background is a good starting point in trying to understand the film in his perspective. He was said to be greatly influenced by Fyodor Dostoyevsky who explored human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual context of 19th-century Russian society. This can readily explain his use of an almost-mystical Guest as a device for the introduction of change into the family. While Pasolini being openly homosexual could explain the decision of choosing sexual encounters between two pairs of men in the movie as another device.

His leaning is clearly towards the left, being born in Bologna which is a leftist city in 1922 Italy and being a longtime Communist. It made me realize that the film is a critique of both the Italian bourgeoisie – portrayed by the seemingly ideal family – and the proletariat – portrayed by the maid. The “documentary reel” in the beginning of the film even presented a communist worker which was tagged in the interview as “a part of the trend…” which gives communism a normative feel, at least in Pasolini’s perspective.

The era when he was born, for me, also plays an important role. 1920s is the era when Italians increasingly became consumerists. The film explicitly questions the social order of the Italians are consumerists. Consumerism made people forget about the natural realities by patronizing, hence, consuming, these man-made realities: the movie showcased the proletariat maid that just fed on nettle, being natural, versus man-made/processed food. On a larger scale, consumerism practically let us lose our myths and souls (or as Ms. Abdullah put it, “incapable of recognizing what is sacred”). This ultimately leads to tell us that the more we get inclined to consume man-made (or let’s say, artificial) things, the more we will realize that there is no meaning to anything, only emptiness, devoid of truth. This was somehow presented in the final scenes of the film shot in the barren and dead desert (some say it was shot in Mt. Etna) which could symbolize the modern world, the empty space in all of our lives, and what's waiting at the end of this social order.

Franco said...

Most of the scenes were really shot to bewilder the viewers, the use of the documentary as the opener really made a statement. Yes it told us what happened: the factory was given away to its employees. But that only delved on the surface of the fact. It never really did tell us why, or what were the things running inside the Father’s mind that made him give the factory away and literally stripped everything that was his.

While the previous scene gave me certainty, the others left me confused. Well, for instance, I was not sure if the solo picture of the Guest was taken in such a way that his pose will resemble the famous hammer and sickle – the symbol of communism. This made me think if he was really there to be the personification of that ideology. Moreover, if the film praises or promotes communism, do the scenes where each of the family members passively accepted and had a sexual encounter with the Guest signify the film’s denouncement of Fascism? Having that in mind, I am also wondering about the significance – or implication – of having the maid buried alive. Is burying her tantamount to burying a particular ideology?

Lastly, is the guest really the god? Or the devil? Or a figure modeled after the Machiavellian idea of the 'prince,' to shake things up and straighten the path of Italy? Because the guest somehow has delivered certain realizations to the members of the family, no matter how disastrous the effects would be. This could be possible, not only because the Machiavellian idea is purely Italian but also because he symbolizes the Machiavellian leader of great 'virtue' who exposes the truth and liberates each of the other characters so they can reach their full potential.

Despite these gray areas, I am certain that Teorema exemplifies the concept of change, through the (mind’s) eyes of Pasolini: of how chaotic change can be and what are its horrors. These horrors cannot be articulated more by scenes other than the primal scream in the end. But still, a lining of hope can also be found behind the façade of painful horror, as depicted on the scene of the maid’s burial where she said, “these are tears, but not of pain… but of hope.”

-Franco Oliva

Juan Carlo Tejano said...


The second point that must be made is that, aside from being their Freudian psychoses, the forms of madness of Lucia and Paolo must also be seen through the lenses of socialist feminism as symbolisms. Lucia’s and Paolo’s psychoses were chosen by Pasolini because he wanted to symbolize what was unimaginable for a wife and husband under capitalist mental circumstances. Thus, it was unimaginable for a wife to have lascivious intentions with younger men and it was unimaginable for a family patriarch, being the wielder of political and economic power, to give up all his private material wealth. These are gender-related issues. First, in a marriage or in any heterosexual relationship for that matter the woman is restricted by culture and in many times force to have no sexual role other than the one she plays with her husband. Thus it would take a mad wife to have sexual relations with multiple boys. Second, the archetypal family father in a capitalist patriarchy is normally expected to be the Adam Smith man of greed and self-interest – the homo economicus. Thus, it is impossible especially for the upper class, unless in a psychotic trance, for a man to give up his private wealth and even share it with the working class.

Lastly, it must be pointed out that the entire film can be seen as an extension of the communist critique against the concept of the family. As I already pointed out in class, in a book entitled “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State,” Friedrich Engels criticizes the concept of the family according to its etymological origin of “famulus,” which means “servant.” Thus, the family is a systematic repression of human nature in its most dangerous form – dangerous, because it is rarely noticed, rarely questioned, and even more rarely challenged. This is clearly portrayed in the film in how the narrative’s family represses the hidden and deepest desires of the family members, as already analyzed character-by-character by Ms. Abdullah. Thus, Pasolini’s aspiration is to break down the family and to set the human nature free from its familial bondage.

- Juan Carlo Tejano

royalprincerpineda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
royalprincerpineda said...

What do you think about yourself? Are you certain that what you think about yourself is actually what you are now?

A theorem is a statement that needs proof. In the social sciences, it is the equivalent of hypothesis that can either be accepted or rejected depending on the evidences presented. What you think about yourself is your theorem about your existence; the certainty that you are really yourself is the evidence. However, when someone suddenly disproves or invades your “evidence” or comfort zone of your existence, you suddenly feel the void and attempt to fill up the emptiness. This is what happened to the characters in the film Teorema.

Ms. Abdullah has presented several frameworks for analysis of the film that we watched. I agree that using the Marxist framework juxtaposed with divinity, the bourgeois society with industrial values is criticized in the film. The family was so preoccupied with their ideals that they think that maintaining their own order and staying in their respective comfort zones will make them feel better relative to others below them. Yet, they failed to recognize that there’s something that is even better, perhaps the best but no one is sure, and that is what the Guest probably represents—the Sacred, the Divine, the Truth. Also, they failed to fill the void after their encounters with the Guest due to their preference on material things over the more miraculous events that a person might achieve if he/she has the capacity to absorb these ideas. They tried to find their own existence material world by consuming more and more of the desires, or by stripping oneself with all he/she has to search for the Truth, or by creating replicas of what he/she thinks would satisfy the longing. Only Emilia, the servant, who is not engulfed with bourgeois principles, was able to surpass the challenge: she was able to transcend her present condition and find her new self in doing miracles that would not be possible if she hid behind the material things of this world.

Psychoanalysis can complement Marxism to fully understand the film. Repressed desires by each character were exposed with the sexual encounters with the Guest, and each also tried to repress back their desires after the Guest left. Apart from Emilia, who was able to repress her desires back, the family members were not able to do so. Each one fell into a consequence far from their situation as a middle-class family who was contented with a condition that’s “better” relative to others.

Perhaps, postmodernism can best explain the movie. While I was totally perplexed while watching Teorema, I think the message for all of us is to find ourselves within ourselves—your existence within your existence. Do you think what you think you are now is better than what you think you are before? What is your idea of ‘best’, anyway? After the Guest (can be interpreted as the Best) left them, the family members tried to search for him again. Perhaps, only Emilia was lucky enough to be as closest to her own Best as possible; the rest were totally shocked as their own perfect little world was disrupted by something that’s even better. Sir F pointed out in the discussion that if there’s a ‘better’, then there should be the idea of ‘best’. And I think it is relative to ourselves—how we perceive the Best as it is. The Best should not be relative to others, but it should be your idea of how you can be closer to it, and that’s your idea of better. Let us strive to prove our own teoremas—no matter the circumstances are, we must embrace our theorems of our existence, and try to make our own choices far different from those chosen for you. #

-PINEDA, Roldan P.

Fiona Arevalo said...


Let me start by saying that the film has less words of dialogue than most of our comments in here. 923 words say the ads but there’s no claim whether this refers to the Italian dialogues or English subtitles. Research says that an average person speaks at a rate of 280 words per minute (probably more in Italian), meaning, the film had less than four minutes of dialogues in its 98-minute running time! I would have to agree with Ms. Adullah that it was almost a silent film if it weren’t for Morricone’s soundtrack. The rest of the film is composed of long landscape pans and abrupt moments of action and like what had been mentioned in the main blog entry, “each scene occurs with no warning”, leaving its audience perpetually shocked by just every scene. I would have to say, I really had a hard time keeping my entire focus and attention while viewing it. It is by far the most baffling film I had ever viewed and it left me with this extreme feeling of wanting to comprehend and relate to whatever the film’s message is.

The Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini draws together the various themes that is reflective of his life and career—Marxism, homosexuality and religion—in his most abstract and mind-blowing film, Teorema. It is a compelling, surreal and disturbing work, filled with political allegory and humanist sentiment (Travers, 2004). It gave us a heavily symbolic and highly intellectual look at the bourgeois milieu and the effect that a mysterious visitor, Stamp, has on one specific family. The most controversial aspect of the film is the highly ambiguous identity of Stamp’s character. Many had questioned whether his character is supposed to resemble God or the devil (Stamp has a face hanging uniquely between evil and kind-hearted, his eyes are cherubic, but his grin is diabolical). Pasolini responds to it by saying that he leaves it to the spectator, whether the visitor is God or the Devil but he is not Christ. The important thing is that he is sacred, a supernatural being. He is something from beyond. Then again, he simply described the character as “something authentic and unstoppable”.

Stamp’s reason for his visit was never revealed. He just arrived and engaged himself in sexual affairs with all members of the household: the devoutly religious maid, the sensitive son, the sexually repressed mother, the timid daughter and, finally, the tormented father. The stranger gives assiduously of himself with nothing in return. However, sex in here is only metaphorical. That’s why the sex scenes between the visitor and the members of the family are not explicit. The love that is offered is spiritual. He fills in that feeling of loneliness and incompleteness that they had for a time. He is the fulfilment of the desires of all the family members simultaneously. He is what they have all fantasized about, a master signifier to give meaning to their entire world. It is his radical ambiguity that made him perfect for the role. He fulfils all fantasies, dreams, longings, because he is a blank canvas onto which anything can be projected. And then one day he leaves as mysteriously as he came. With his absence comes the fall, a stunning metaphor for the limits of sexual-release and escapism. The family members became so acutely aware of the emptiness in their lives when the stranger disappeared. They have sensed something “authentic and unstoppable” and can never return to the way things were before his arrival. Unable to endure the void in their lives, the mother becomes a nymphomaniac, the son an artist (who creates works that only he can understand), the daughter a catatonic and the father a sexual prowler. Because they are materialistic, rich bourgeoisie, their collapses are elegant and terrifying, while the maid, the peasant woman, becomes sanctified. The maid on the contrary went back to her hometown and performed miracles.

Fiona Arevalo said...


Tracing from his Marxist background, Pasolini seemed to be saying that the evil in society is the rampant materialism and that the bourgeoisie are its victims—the bourgeoisie have lost the sense of the sacred, and so they cannot solve their own lives in a religious way. But the servant is a peasant, who has a strong faith and religion; hence she was the one who had the most positive way of coping after the stranger left. Unlike the family that employs her, she has a naive faith to sustain her. Instead of deteriorating, she performed miracles and imparted herself to a much greater number of people compared to the family of whom she first served. Pasolini romanticized the lower classes through the maid. On the other hand, he condemns the bourgeoisie who had been alienated incredibly due to their worship of wealth and material things. When faced with a power that constituted real liberation, their values were revealed bankrupt and they spun into madness.

Pasolini’s Teorema, as a postmodern film, is not something that I would watch for leisure. Actually, I would be totally honest in saying that I would not watch this film at all if it weren’t required. Like Ms. Candelario, I also felt like giving out a primal scream after seeing the film. This is just how much baffling I found the film to be.

-AREVALO, Nina Fiona Vianca S.

Juan Carlo Tejano said...

PART I (I posted this already but I don't think it registered. So I'm posting both parts again.)

Before anything, a minor but perhaps crucial disclaimer must be made: I watched the film online and not with the rest of the class. This may have affected my judgment of the film for two reasons: a) I did not watch it with an audience that can simultaneously react with me; and b) I did not experience the exhilarating discussion with Sir F (naks!). In any case, I hope this comment will not lose its value because of these.

My immediate analysis of the film is quite similar with Ms. Abdullah’s; I saw it right away through Marxist lenses. Ms. Abdullah hit it hard with the analysis that the upper-class family was consumed by its capitalist values and that Pasolini’s artwork is a Marxist-socialist-communist criticism of society. Pasolini’s bias towards the servant Emilia is also thus far clear, although I wish to point out that there is nothing wrong with this if the film were to be judged according to its own criteria which are unapologetically socialist. At this point, therefore, I only wish to add three more areas of discussion to what the blog entry has already started, namely, the phenomenon of miracles performed by Emilia, the capitalist-determined gender symbolisms attached to the nuances of Lucia’s and Paolo’s madness, and finally the socialist analysis of the family.

First, we wonder why Emilia’s form of madness is so different from the rest. Is it really because it was she alone, being of a lower-class background, who was capable of seeing the “sacred?” However, as the entry has already pointed out, does this not in fact contradict the entire socialist framework within which the film was supposedly made? As I interpret it, Emilia’s miracle work is not a contradiction to the film’s Marxist framework but in fact an extension of it. Pasolini may have merely wanted to show – saliently – how religion or superstition is the “madness” or, in more Marxist terms, the “opium” of the masses. Extending Ms. Abdullah’s analysis of the characters’ forms of madness as outbreaks of their deepest desires, would it not have been more apt that Emilia joined the labor movement or the basic sectors or perhaps even the lower-class feminist movement in their struggle for a more socially just society? It would seem that if Emilia really represented the masses and the peasants in this movie it would have been such a defeatist move to merely translate Emilia’s deepest desire as to be a miracle worker without the revolutionary fervor commonly attached to her sector. As I see it, however, Pasolini precisely chose this fate for Emilia because he wants to deliver a message – that the masses are easily persuaded away from class consciousness by their opium, religion. As such, therefore, Emilia’s madness is nothing about the sacred but all about the incapacity of the toiling class to organize a revolution because of the ideational hegemony of religious fatalism embodied by Emilia’s miracles. Never mind the struggle for our rights and welfare, we have the likes of Emilia anyway who can provide miracles for us.

- Juan Carlo Tejano

Juan Carlo Tejano said...


The second point that must be made is that, aside from being their Freudian psychoses, the forms of madness of Lucia and Paolo must also be seen through the lenses of socialist feminism as symbolisms. Lucia’s and Paolo’s psychoses were chosen by Pasolini because he wanted to symbolize what was unimaginable for a wife and husband under capitalist mental circumstances. Thus, it was unimaginable for a wife to have lascivious intentions with younger men and it was unimaginable for a family patriarch, being the wielder of political and economic power, to give up all his private material wealth. These are gender-related issues. First, in a marriage or in any heterosexual relationship for that matter the woman is restricted by culture and in many times force to have no sexual role other than the one she plays with her husband. Thus it would take a mad wife to have sexual relations with multiple boys. Second, the archetypal family father in a capitalist patriarchy is normally expected to be the Adam Smith man of greed and self-interest – the homo economicus. Thus, it is impossible especially for the upper class, unless in a psychotic trance, for a man to give up his private wealth and even share it with the working class.

Lastly, it must be pointed out that the entire film can be seen as an extension of the communist critique against the concept of the family. As I already pointed out in class, in a book entitled “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State,” Friedrich Engels criticizes the concept of the family according to its etymological origin of “famulus,” which means “servant.” Thus, the family is a systematic repression of human nature in its most dangerous form – dangerous, because it is rarely noticed, rarely questioned, and even more rarely challenged. This is clearly portrayed in the film in how the narrative’s family represses the hidden and deepest desires of the family members, as already analyzed character-by-character by Ms. Abdullah. Thus, Pasolini’s aspiration is to break down the family and to set the human nature free from its familial bondage.

- Juan Carlo Tejano