Theorem Review

Unpacking Theorem, it is difficult to get anywhere past scratching the surface for what director Pier Paolo Pasolini wishes to display. Unfulfilled lives shuffle through a grand estate, their temporary display of joy and fruitful living comes in the form of a stranger, who has visited the house. His name, occupation and past are not of interest, neither to the audience nor these self-invested characters, who weep and cry out in anger when trying to produce some sort of life for themselves. He embodies happier times and is just as fleeting as such a feeling. His permanence would ruin reality, as would the removal of negativity and harsh truth.

Pasolini wishes to present his film through, primarily, camerawork and the lingering effects of a lacking love. He does so with competence, but never presents an opportunity to care for anything more than the themes. Soon sold on the fact that Theorem has less than a thousand words uttered, it is clear to see that this is a detractor, rather than an artistic benefit. A good experiment if intended, but if not, it would surely struggle to develop and expand upon its narrative. There are times where Theorem works, but it is under the guise of artistic merits that it makes its statements, of which there are many. Some stand out far better than others, but the recurrent theme of it all is that, without Terrence Stamp at the helm of it all, it simply does not work.

Themes are only as strong as the characters that explore them, and the crucial concession Theorem must make is that both leading and supporting performers are not interesting. It throws so many thematics and messages at an audience, hoping for them to decide on the tone, style and meaning behind these frankly empty scenes. Who knows what Pasolini had in mind for this one? He strikes through the thick waves of cinema with enough style but offers little in the way of concrete thoughts. By the looks of it, he would much rather have an audience decide for themselves, and here he presents a blueprint for them to fit their agendas into. Theorem is solid groundwork for a meaning to be poured into, but that should be up to the director, not the audience.

Emotionally or physically catatonic specimens linger in the halls and rooms of this ambiguous piece from Pasolini. It is both the strongest and weakest notation the film has to offer, where its message is unclear through either intentional vagueness or accidentally stifled prose. Either way, the piece here is not a strong one, it can only do so much with its enigmatic approach, and what little it does is not of much interest to those who wish for clarity or care for speculation. Either an allegory for passion or a muted analysis of what happiness means and the various religious, cultural or ethical moods it takes on, Theorem is a middling mess filled with forgettable creations hidden away behind an effective lack of lucidity. To have so much to say, in fact, means Pasolini has little concrete musings, his lack of confidence in his message a forthright issue throughout.  

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