The People’s Inability to See Their Bodily Condition as a Sacred Reality

Suzanna Pasolini and Pier Paolo (child and the film-camera)
Child and the Film Camera
As we see in this photograph (from the 20s) little Pier Paolo was already full of intense curiosity about the visual images. How intrigued he is by the photographer making his picture, how overwhelmed he seems by the secrets of the mysterious box! This piccolo boy has already given up the ontological complacency that is natural for his age – for the sake of a precocious intuitive interest towards transforming life into its meaning (that is registered in images).

Factory as a Work-Camp
Western Instrumental Reason
These two shots of the factory that belongs to the main character in “Theorem”, can illustrate Martin Heidegger’s point about the dominant role of Instrumental Reason and orientation on total power in both: totalitarian and democratic political systems. The factory, the stock market and the concentration camp are equally oriented on effective production of profitable results.
Spiritual Healing: Superhuman Perspective
Spiritual Healing: Human Angle
Like Christ incarnated into human form and lived through human destiny, Angel in Pasolini’s film is completely humanized – his angelism is the very human nature. Human nature in him by Pasolini’s creative illumination became the angelic and as such an irresistible call for spiritual transformation. But even for this incredible being – the angel and the human in one, it took some time to understand the reason for the sudden turn of illness in the main character – a successful businessman and an exemplary family man. It is not just exhaustion what has put this self-made man, initiator and achiever, into bed with a kind of mental anemia – it is a doubt about his way of living and about the truth of his picture of the world. He is tired of walking through the desert while looking for (creating with his entrepreneurial energies) the Promised Land – Pasolini’s Biblical image of the Western civilization’s destiny to move through history into a future point of fulfilling the human dreams. These two stills represent the shot-reverse shot of human angel’s healing effort (superhuman and human perspectives complete one another) – by laying the elder man‘s legs on his shoulders he is providing spiritual relief (compassion applied right to the point of existential grief).

To Learn Inspiration From Angel
Pietro, the son of the industrialist, is looking (together with the human angel) at Francis Bacon’s paintings trying to feel through him on what to react and how to learn from the painter about the condemned human nature. He took the angel’s cryptic message about the ultimate value of bodily incarnation aesthetically – as incarnation of meaning into painting. He is not able to understand the message as directly about life – he has inherited a perception of body and matter as a tool – for salvation, for profit, for meaning and for aesthetic effect. This shot depicts the dominant role of the interior (signifying for the people of today the primacy of private life over public area) as a cultural motif. Pasolini deconstruct the interior (as a focus of comfort and prosperity) as a kind of ontological lock limiting human imagination. People dream about the “interior happiness” while using public realm to fight for achieving “interior security”. Look at how many different elements inside the shot separate the human being (human soul) from openness of life (people’s life outside interior) – two layers of metal bars (one belonging to the bed, and one to the divider behind), two heavy draperies from both sides of the window and the middle by the sheer curtain. More, the heavy draperies have deep “wrinkles” reminding of the metal bars which are projected into the sheer curtain. Even the side of the TV monitor or laptop looks like a limiting obstacle for thinking what is outside the interior. The room has a “second window” – a cartoon poster calling today’s children and youth into an artificial and disorienting world of comic strip. Finally, on an out-of-focus blanket signifying physical comfort of the “interior happiness” (when human being is as if dissolved in a container of softness that symbolizes the achievement of material civilization) the painting album lies – art as a sublime experience not balanced by the roughness of existential truth.
Sacred 'Harlot"
The wife of the factory owner under the influence of the angel’s presence in the family mansion becomes conscious of the existential fraud in the ways of her everyday life. Here we see her in a bed with a casual young man she has just picked up on the street. Compassion for those who are psychologically homeless becomes] the nucleus of her real self. The shot underlines the anonymity of the partner and Lucia’s readiness to give without taking anything in exchange.
Maid turned Saint

Maid Turned Saint
What a poor maid from the country can do for humankind? She can stop to work for a rich family, return to the village of her childhood and try to explain to the peasants how wrong is their petty dreams about cheap prosperity.
Angel Prepares for his mission
Angel Prepares For His Mission
The human angel is reading Arthur Rimbaud’s poems trying to understand better the human predicament while not forgetting his “mission” – to make people accept the spirituality of the human flesh.
Odette and the Angel
Odette and the Angel
Odette is giving herself to the feeling of the aura emanating from the human angel to learn about the meaning of human life that is not distorted by the metaphysical need to self-assert, to triumph, to dominate over bodies, souls and life. How to recover sexual sensitivity without sexuality as a monstrous apparatus of self-asserting and dominating other human beings?
Questioning God
The previous factory owner (who gave it away to the workers) and a previous head of the family (that) now shattered by the radical change in its members’ perception of the world) has stripped himself, not only of clothing but of the symbols of social status. He demands answers from God about the very meaning of the history of Western civilization.
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We came from a cultural tradition that believed that to have a body is a sin, and that the human heart, soul and mind must be oriented against the body and try to assert itself through devaluation of the body-ness as such. Human orientation on fight and wars cannot be separated from human contempt towards the flesh. Even when, like in modern technical science, the human mind tries to serve our bodily needs, its ideas are impregnated with the feeling of body’s sinfulness – as a tool of human survival science becomes as sinful as body as it was perceived by the traditional view. It transforms human beings into manipulated objects of scientific experimentation on a gigantic scale. As a result, technical science helps the assertion of human will to power and taste for domination.

But if people could see that they are embodied not as a result of being condemned – that their bodily condition doesn’t need redemption, that it is a blessing on the part of Creation, they would not search for power in its many forms: might, hate, technical-scientific control, weapon, wealth, identification with religious or political dogmas, etc. If they could discover the sacredness of the bodily-ness then they would try to make their emotional life (heart), their dreams and imagination (soul) and their mental life (mind) correspond to the fact that their bodily condition is a spiritual one. Only then they would exist in humility and humanism and live without megalomania, violence and vanity. Then we would have a politics that is oriented on the benevolence of human beings, a science dedicated to essential human needs instead of manipulation of the world, arts oriented to facilitate our sensitivities instead of seducing us into worshiping pop-aesthetic fetishes.

It is nearly impossible to come to feel that the mystery of our body is of a spiritual nature because we learn from the indifference of the world toward life, from the unbearable conditions of survival for our ancestors, and from being historically neglected or abused as children. Fight for survival provokes our greed, envy and panic about our mortality, and our dream about the immortality. We destroy our natural bodily life by destroying our ecological environment and by creating artificial needs that suffocate our existence. We serve our survival and yet simultaneously hate our bodies. We train it like a dog. We have become fighters with one another and torturers of each other. As the father from Pasolini’s film we arrive at modernity through Biblical deserts to find ourselves locked in the conflicts of industrialization and globalism, financial fights, empty in our soul and with meaningless lives. The characters of “Theorem” – the members of a single family, were privileged to receive a revelation about the ultimate spiritual value of our bodily condition. By encouraging our desire to understand the film’s heroes, Pasolini discourages our identification with them and positions us, rather, to identify with his suffering, hope and concept.

“Teorema” is an attempt to make us sense that we are already there, in the very paradise of our embodiment, and that it is merely our inability to recognize it – our religious zealousness, our technological shell and armor, and our accouterment of wealth, creates hell on the Earth.
Because the film has to reiterate a huge quantity of information about human life throughout a vast historical space, Pasolini tries to create a realistic effect by an extremely symbolic means. The complicated nature of Pasolini’s visual semantics becomes a confrontation with the human problems of a shocking simplicity. An existential theorem clashes with the axiom of meaning. Aesthetic “proving” of the theorem becomes just the ability to see the evidence. Life is intricate, but its meaning is straight.

Pasolini forces us to imagine a new mythological creation – a human angel, when the more human a person is the more angelic he becomes. How can our very humanity be angelic? In the presence of the human angel (that suggests supernaturality of the naturality and extraordinariness of the ordinary) all the characters in the film become alien to their pseudo-selves (they wore as conventional roles).

Pasolini does the impossible: human body becomes the body of the wisdom. Sacredness itself becomes a sexual desire. Sexuality becomes humility. In comparison, gluttony or obsessive sexuality, for example, secretly harbor metaphysical hubris.

The time before the arrival of the relative with the powers of a prophet is characterized by silence of the family members with each other (nothing to talk about when everything has already been decided by the system). When the personages feel the influence of the messenger – the influx of wordiness comes (awaken self-reflectivity). Near the end of the film we see how speech unites with the silence of self-realization.

Posted on Oct 4 2014 –   “Theorem” (1968) By Pier Paolo Pasolini by Acting-Out Politics