Salò o Le 120 Giornate di Sodoma

Ennio Morricone and Various Composers

" Ennio Morricone was appalled by the movie "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the music as heard in the movie

Salò o Le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) was the last film of filmmaker Piero Paolo Pasolini, who was murdered not long after its release, very much an intellectual person. He believed this film, that caused quite a stir, was made for everyone, hoping that it would create some form of debate. It basically is a retelling of the book of Marquis de Sade, transformed into a new age with Nazi´s still controlling the world and cruelly torturing a selected group of a young male and females. I have seen many of the outer regions of extreme or exploitation cinema, but never before had a film made me feel sick. I felt it was a positive, disrupting experience, a brilliant piece of cinema.

Passolini was one of the filmmakers Ennio Morricone speaks highly of. He felt the director was by far the most humble, respectful and friendly persons he collaborated with in his career, and Salò was to be their final joint effort. Pasolini has often been a director who was very outspoken about his own musical ideas for a film, sometimes giving the composer the opportunity to write a full score, but usually wanted classical music to have its place amongst the music for the film. The director, as always, wrote down very specific musical ideas and very concretely explained what he expected from each of the composers he worked with. Morricone is known for accepting everything some offered at the beginning of his career, only to become more vocal towards the progression of his career. Yet, he never declined any offer by Pasolini and was so devoted he made unusually large concessions, which is also evident in some of the original music he wrote to his films. The composer never saw the full film until its first theatrical viewing in Rome and was unsurprisingly shocked by it. In retrospect, he was eternally grateful the director showed him everything but the explicit scenes while they were discussing the film in the editing room. It was a sign of kindness and trust, but as an outsider the very thought of purposefully not showing all, raises some questions. Hypothetically, the music in the Salò could have been different, but knowing the mindset of the director, I don´t expect it would have made a whole lot of differences. However, I do keep on wondering what the theatre play Orgia, whose music remains unreleased, was compared to when they worked together for cinema, and if the working process was somehow different.

In some of their collaborations, the composer wrote a full score (Uccellacci E Uccellini , La Streghe, Teorema and Il Fiore delle Mille e Una Notte), but for I racconti di Canterbury, Il Decameron and Salo he receives a musical advisor/musical curator credit. Pasolini often acted as musical supervisor on his own films, and for these three Morricone wrote next to nothing, often only adapting pieces. In I racconti di Canterbury, you hear mostly a reworking of old music and it includes an original cue just 32 seconds long, Il Decameron only made Morricone adapt existing music, while for Salò he wrote an original 4 minute piece and conducted one existing piece of music. In the opening credits his name appears alongside the name of Arnaldo Graziosi for playing the piano.

The only piece of original music is a cue later released under the name of Addio A Pier Paolo Pasolini, not to be confused with Omaggio A Pier Paolo Pasolini, a homage to Pasolini that suggests to have been written for the film on various cd releases. Apparently his obvious musical advisor credit in the film is also something that still puzzles many who have seen the film, still contributing a lot of the music in the film to him. The maestro employs Schönberg´s twelve-tone serialism for the piano composition played on screen by one of the courtesan characters. It is such a brilliant dissonant piece, which connects with the philosophical dwelling of the courtesans, trying to brainwash the youngster to believe in their defined reality. It is far apart from Schönberg original intention with this innovating technique, but it just works on so many levels.

All other pieces include two preludes and a waltz (Frédéric Chopin) , Carmina Burana - III. Veris Laeta Facies (Carl Orff), Son tanto triste (Franco Ansaldo and Alfredo Bracchi), Pastorale in F major, BWV 590 (Johann Sebastian Bach) and Inno a Roma (Giacomo Puccini). Son tanto Triste is a rather jovial, jazzy period piece that was conducted by Morricone, while all the other pieces were compiled from existing recordings. The music is used in the opening and closure of the film. It sounds as pointless and vulgar music, representing the fascists' obedience. Chopin music is in perfect alignment with how the characters have created a newly shaped society and feel they are amidst people who act accordingly and what is expected in any society, and so they cheerfully dance to the music. Obviously, the music of Chopin is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The artistic content of the Carl Orff piece is fitting for the film, but also because of his (troubled) relations with the Nazis, who first marked Carmina Burana as Undeutsch and pornographic, only to be fully accepted again with his name appearing in the Gottbegnadeten-Liste' that Joseph Goebbels published in 1944. It´s heard in the encompassing closure of the film, a montage of torture. At first, the music appears non-diegetic, cut to a torturing, but is later revealed to have come from a radio, abruptly stopped as someone switches it over to Son tanto Triste, inviting everyone to dance once more. Brilliant.

Each of the pieces are interconnected with Pasolini´s multilayered intellectual and philosophical ideas that far exceeds the novelty at first glance, and is certainly something that takes a lot of research to understand. Both people that love and hate Salò, the thought of any deeper meaning comes as a pointless attempt, but the music is even extremely functional on a basic level, providing a great contrast to what's happening on screen and strengthens the decadence and justifications of those in power. I can only appreciate it as heard in the film, but it´s difficult to give it a fitting rating.

Ennio Morricone did little for Salò O Le 120 Giornate Di Sodoma, but the original piece is one I have admired for a long time. I doubt many others will feel the same, but it is one of the many pieces of music that represents how much I love the work of the composer. One thing I have always liked is how distributing labels have, rightfully, used his name on their artwork. If any new release of Salo would arise, I hope they take my personal tagline into consideration: Ennio Morricone was appalled by the movie. Presumably the best piece of advertisement for the film.
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(total of 5 votes - average 3.8/5)

Released by

- (music as heard in the movie 1975)