11 September 2014 to 5 January 2015
Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the most outstanding and ambivalent personalities on the European intellectual scene of the post-war period. As a lyricist in his native Friulian, as the author of novels, essays and columns on cultural and political issues, as a director of controversial films, and also as a painter and graphic artist, he sought to explore timeless, archaic themes: the fate of man, rural life, religion, sexuality, death.
In doing so he always avoided commonly accepted standards and created images of extraordinary clarity and starkness, thus becoming the most provocative figure in Italian society. As a result of his media presence in the last years of his life and certainly since his violent death Pasolini has become an icon of Postmodernism.
Autobiography and self-promotion, while certainly not the only elements in his works, are nevertheless present as important themes, revolving like satellites around their author’s ego, his inner contradictions and his place in a changing world. In the last analysis it was Pasolini himself who with a flood of pretexts, self-commentaries and media happenings blurred the distinctions between life and work.
Nearly 40 years after his death the question of who Pasolini really was is being posed anew. To answer it we have to look at the “whole” Pasolini, that is to say, the life and the work, the wealth of styles and the diversity of media, and also at the social and political clairvoyance and the excessive provocation of this highly complex artist, who has recently been rediscovered by a younger generation who have seen the relevance of his views on the consumer society in the changed circumstances of globalization.
There is a pre-Pasolini Rome and a post-Pasolini Rome. His articles and films created a new imagery for the city of Rome. Pasolini was not content to use the city as the scene of his novels and films; what he managed to do was “recreate” Rome using the means of literature and film. Like some grand creator he invented a new myth of the polis and the Vatican City, their districts and inhabitants.
As a film-maker Pasolini is best known for “Accattone” (1961), “Mamma Roma” (1962), “The Gospel According to Matthew” (1964) and “Theorem” (1968). In 1969 he filmed “Medea” after Euripides with Maria Callas. “The Decameron” was shown at the 1970 Berlinale. As a writer he achieved notoriety for his novels „Ragazzi di vita“ (1955) and „Una vita violenta“ (1959) and later distinguished himself as an essayist and lyricist.
For Pasolini Rome was not just a background and location. Rome had a positively physical, sensuous and passionate existence. For the artist Rome was like one long love story with all its disappointments, mixed feelings of love and hatred, and alternating phases of attraction, rejection and estrangement. For Pasolini the analyst of the development of Italian society Rome was his main observation platform, an eternal field of study, of thought and of struggle. The changes in the city shaped his analysis of the changes in Italy and the Italians in the 1960s and 1970s.