From RIFORMA – Friday 17 July 2009

More than thirty years have passed since Pier Paolo Pasolini died. When he died I was nine, I was at home with mum and dad, the evening news in the background. We heard the news vaguely, but my father turned the volume of the television up (black and white tv, without any remote control) and then it was real: we had heard well, not only Pasolini was dead but he had been murdered. I still remember the hoarse voice of the journalist who gave the news accompanied with images showing the body of Pasolini lacerated and abandoned in a field. A body surrounded by policemen who were doing their on-site surveys and a crowd of curious people around them, making their job more difficult, and surely contaminating traces and evidences that should have helped to solve such a ferocious crime, of which we still do not have certain conclusions, on which at least there are several doubts about dynamics and responsibility. A body that, in the ferociousness of a violent death, seemed to cry a phrase from the Bible: «This is my body» (Matthew, 26, 26).

The topic of the body crosses the whole Pasolini’s work diagonally, apart from his life and death. Exhibited, offered, loved, clubbed to death, Pasolini’s body is the privileged place where of the epiphany of sacred. A Christological body. Michael Hardt (American theoretical of literature and philosopher of politics) writes: «Pasolini is fascinated by offering himself with no shame of Christ’s body on the cross. His wounds are open. All of his body – chest, belly, sex and knees – burns under the crowd’s eyes. In the moment of death Christ is all body, a piece of flesh open, abandoned, exposed». In spite of such offering, such exposition, and offer, it seems that Pasolini never closes the argument about his work. Far before his violent death prevented him from completing it, incompleteness had been a common issue in his works. Just think about the several writings never finished that Pasolini printed anyway.

The «not finished»

It is for this feature of «not finished» that Pasolini’s work is continuously read. The affair Pasolini in fact is still surrounded by dubious thesis that kept the debate and the study of this so controvert character of intellectual and political Italian world open. Since that evening of November l975 I have always been much curious about this great literate. The kind of curiosity never satisfied, and that a nine-year-old kid, like I was at that time, filled with my demands, wanted to satisfy.

Today my demands keep superabounding in my head, and, getting older ,I have learned to ask myself questions. The width and variety of his work have produced, over the years, a huge amount of critical literature. And yet, even after thirty years from his death, Pasolini is still object of different studies, academic and non-academic. The figure of Pasolini goes beyond his role as a writer, a playwright and a director. I try to understand what the books, the newspapers and the detailed web-sites tell me about Pasolini, accounts that help me ask myself further questions. All this just because I think doubts are still few. I have always wanted, deep in my heart, him to become a point of reference for everybody, but who wants to be important for everyone? Here are some more questions that linger over my head. We will not surely know the most important things about Pasolini, one who had written and talked about everything. In the life of such an exposed, evident, discussed person, there are so many important things we will never know about. I have written and filed the work of Pasolini for years, and I am taken by this sort of fever of collecting his works, as if I would never know enough, I would not be able to talk about it, or give a limit to this richness of thoughts and torments of his. I miss Pasolini, or should I say we miss him. We miss his criticism, his poetry. Pasolini always looked for the real contact with life, with real people, and social reality. He was a poet committed with humankind, close to people. The quality of his commitment has gone over Italian boundaries, and helps us see the world better.

Today’s Italy

Today, in our Berlusconiana Italy, sometimes split in aesthetics and morals, Pasolini would have had a lot of things to say. He would have written an incredible writing or directed a terrible film. Pasolini did not see this world, but somehow and in many aspects, he foresaw it, giving us a key to decipher it. His last film, Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, an unbearable one, but terribly present, shows us and denounces, according to me, the terrible drift of our society. Today, more and more, we have to do with a system that has given up dignity and humanity for money and appearance. For this reason, reading and reading Pasolini, even if he died more than thirty years ago, he is particularly present. Writing books and directing films was not enough for him, he had a bad habit: he reasoned in a loud voice, from the very first page of an important Italian newspaper, where he denounced: «… I know the names of those who carried out the massacre… » and asked for a process for those who had been ruling the Country for thirty years.

Those years

Pasolini was massacred at the seadrome of Ostia the night of the 2nd November 1975, from a group of people who were together with Pino Pelosi, his «official» killer. That massacre happened after tens of attacks, processes, censures, aggressions, assaults. Reducing his death to a sexual affair means to scatter the memory of one of the greatest Italian but mainly to loose the comprehension of those terrible years. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s death goes to the apex of a secret war, that was fought in Italy with bombs, massacres, projects of golpe, attempts to set things on the wrong track by the State. Only some dates to remember the atmosphere:

  • 17 May 1973: massacre at the Questorship in Milano;
  • Summer 1973: coup d’etat plan of the «Rose of the winds»;
  • December 1973: alert in the Italian barracks;
  • 28 May 1974: massacre of Brescia;
  • 4 August 1974: massacre of the «Italicus»;
  • August 1974: «white golpe » by Edgardo Sogno.

While it is impossible to list here all the fascist aggressions, assaults, of the little attacks and stabbings… truth and politics are incompatible, in the strange Italian situation. Pier Paolo Pasolini had been writing a work that would sane such an incompatibility: Petrolio. A great novel, made of 2000 pages that should have been the “preamble of a will”, his last answer to the world. «… “Petrolio” contains everything I know, it will be the last work of mine: I enjoy having such a secret a lot…». A book-vertigo where there are imagination and reality, journalism and reading, together, where without compromising himself, there are facts and names. It should have been his last work but it was never finished because the evening of the 1st November the last night trip of Pier Paolo Pasolini began

For Pasolini that was a particular night, not one of a joyride looking for company and sex, but one night looking for the reels of his film, Salò that had been stolen. Guido Calvi, lawyer of the Town of Rome, tells it, as a civil defender in the last inquiry (opened and soon after closed) on the murder of Pasolini. The reels had been stolen some time before, in Cinecittà. The film Salò but also the Casanova of Fellini and a reel of Damiano Damiani had been stolen. Those strange thieves had tried the job, had demanded a huge ransom: 2 billions! The producer Alberto Grimaldi had rejected the request even because the reels were precious but not unique: they could do without them. But Pasolini did not want to give up. His friend, the director Sergio Citti told before he died that Pier Paolo had received some messages, had been promised to have his film Salò back for free. That is the way they lured him into the last trap.

«Post mortem»

When he was alive Pasolini was hated a lot. Almost a record, like all the post mortem reappraisals. Pier Paolo Pasolini, born in Bologna and killed in Ostia the night between the 1st and the 2nd November 1975, sang of the innocence of an almost perfect rural world, disappeared with modernity. In Roma, where he moved very young, he worked as a teacher in the outskirts, and started to write novels, essays, and to direct films. He then met the “life children” and told about them with a raw language. He denounced democristiano power abuses, liberalizations of abortion, television, publicity, wastes, school politics. Insulted by the right wing, opposed by Catholics, not born by the left wing, he was always a communist, but after the fights in Valle Giulia in Rome he shocked everyone supporting the policemen, unaware and helpless sons of the people, against the students, sons of the middle class. Rediscovered then by politicians, by the right wing and adopted by the Lega, because of his dialectal studies, he is still object of discussion. He never ceases to amaze. After more than thirty years from his death, everyone misses Pier Paolo Pasolini, those who loved him, who knew him and those who would have liked to meet him, and those who would take advantage from knowing about him. Even those who hated him miss him a lot, because they have often reappraised him for different reasons. Probably the appeal of Pasolini today lies also in his being heretical. His obstinate, anguished search for the comprehension of reality, the hope to get to understand what he wanted, have finally turned, as in the case of other heretics, in an incredible war-engine of persecution, exclusion and, at last, of condemnation.

Massimiliano Picheca

Stage designer of the Teatro Regio in Turin

This article is available in Italian too