SalÒ o Le 120 Giornate Di Sodoma (SalÒ, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom) | 1975
Salò, a town on the western shore of Lake Garda, became in effect the seat of government of the Italian Social Republic, a puppet regime created by the Nazis during the last two years of the war.
In Pasolini’s adaptation, four upstanding pillars of the community – President, Duke, Magistrate and Bishop – spirit away a group of local youngsters for a terminally sadistic orgy as their Fascist rule begins to crumble.
The exterior of the first mansion, where the victims are selected, is deliberately chosen by Pasolini. It’s the 19th century Villa Feltrinelli on the western shore of Lake Garda, about 10 miles northeast of Salò. The villa was requisitioned by the Nazis in 1943 and became home to Benito Mussolini during the life of the Republic.
After the war, the Villa was returned to its former owners and has since been renovated to become a luxury hotel, the Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, Via Rimembranza 38-40, Gargnano. It goes without saying, but I’d better add, that the film is a work of fiction and the events have no connection with the hotel.
Also significant is the location of the bridge over river – with its signpost to ‘Marzabotto’ – where one of the youths makes a spirited attempt to escape. It’s on Via Gardeletta, across the Torrente Setta, in Gardeletta, a small village a few miles south of Marzabotto itself, which was the site of a notorious massacre of around 800 civilians, mainly women, children and older men, by the Nazis in 1944.
The exterior of the grand mansion in which the horrors are perpetrated is the Neoclassical Villa Aldini, Via dell'Osservanza 35, southeast of the centre of Bologna, built in 1816 for Antonio Aldini, minister of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The striking deco interiors, though, are entirely the work of designer Dante Ferretti, created inside the abandoned Villa Riesenfeld, at Pontemerlano, on the SS482 a few miles east of Mantua, toward the village of Barbasso.
For the final scenes of torture and death, the courtyard of the Villa was recreated in at Rome’s famous Cinecittà Studios.
And for those sensitive souls worrying about the filming of the coprophagic banquet scene – yes, of course it was faked. The uncomfortably convincing substitute is the best Swiss chocolate mixed with broken biscuits, condensed milk and marmalade, extruded through plastic tubing.