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Early in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema, mysterious house guest Terrence Stamp has his head tilted in a Christ-like way, and that evocation turned out to be pretty relevant. There are certainly other ways to interpret this surreal film, but sex-as-religious experience is perhaps the most obvious. Stamp basically has a sexual or at least sexually-charged encounter with everyone in the household, and when he leaves, they are all thrown into an existential crisis, but are eventually inspired to different manifestations of faith (ascetic, artistic, rapturous, monastic, etc.). There's lots of religious imagery and music, but to me, this is spiritual experience absent the notion of God. All the trappings are there, with Stamp acting as Savior/Revealer, the house becoming a sacred site, followers being able to do miracles, and so on, but God isn't actually addressed. Books are important in the film - everyone reads, usually something that informs their character - but none of those books are sacred texts as we understand them in a religious context. Rimbaud, Tolstoy, the surrealists... a photo album comes nearest to "evangelizing" the characters' experience. And that's perhaps why Teorema needs to be nearly silent. Words can't adequately express the spiritual; its stand-in, sex, a vocabulary of gestures. I'm less equipped to speak to the Marxist element that's part of the film's DNA as well, so I've only partially cracked its code, I admit.
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In 8 official lists
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This movie ranks #26 in BFI Flare's The Best LGBTQ+ Films of All Time
This movie ranks #219 in Roy Menarini's Il Grande Cinema Italiano
This movie ranks #352 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #353 in 366 Weird Movies
This movie ranks #424 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #577 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #698 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #1221 in The Criterion Collection