Watching Salo for the first time after years of following around other peoples' mythology (Screenselect also sent us Mad Hot Ballroom and Tron which, watched back to back with different members of the house is bound to feed dangerous dreams) and you can't help seeing stuff in there that goes beyond the Dante detours and the warnings from history and find terrible meaning in the simplest horrors.
I've never believed the 'this is how the Nazis started' arguments (what, because you have to wear uniform?), feeling it can only degrade those who've suffered more than inconvenience but all through the film I couldn't help thinking it was less about Fascism than it was about work.
I could have been caught on a bad day. I've just spent what used to be (circa 1974 - History Man etc etc) half term interviewing students for entrance into College, a ritual that forces truth out the window and makes both interviewer and interviewee play an odd game of cat and mouse, one pretending they might not get in, the other pretending they might not want to.
Little half hours of pleasant Hell.
An ILT Strategy meeting at my College where it was arranged, with almost hallucinatory zeal, to email all the students with a full inbox (who therefore can't receive emails) with instructions on how to delete their deleted items.
The way Salo is shot it seems to focus more on the victims' perspective than the captors. This is not the Psychology of the Ruling Elite, nothing remotely Arendt
The blank beauty of the victims, especially when they are laughing or when the blankness if echoed in the Futurism/Cubism adourning the walls. Degeneration made art and back again.
At the same meeting, in defence of a much beleaguered IT team, stood up and suggested we switch of all computers for a month and just make do without emails or computerised handouts or overhead projections or powerpoint and it was like I'd just yelled out I Hate Niggers at the top of my voice. I wasn't aware of so many bubbles to prick.
The unwillingness to refuse contingency, to assume there is no right or wrong, to assume relativity is all is something essentially Facist in it's Synarchist sense and this permeates Salo as it does Education and allows inconsistencies to rule.
The College sees no inconsistency in dealing with (i.e taking money from) Saudi Arabia, China, wherever whilst simultaneously attempting to liberalise the students with semi-political hokum about Human Rights etc.
To stand up and say: "Actually, I think maybe your culture has it wrong as well..." is a logical and moral impossibility rather than something acutely sanctioned or systematically reprimanded.
We are denied the possibility of the existence of truth as Salo victims / captors are. Small victories are no victories. To compensate for this denial of truth everything of worth needs to be recorded. Support for the students is not support if it cannot be systematised and catalogued. We agree. It's nearly lunch-time.
We have tutorials. Everyone complains about them. The students want rid. The teachers would prefer and informal meeting point. Tutorial, as a consequence, is extended by one hour to deal with the problem. This makes everyone happier for a fraction of a second.
"The human race is governed by its imagination."
Meanwhile, in other quarters, the shit-eating of Salo is catalogued into Coprophilia and allowed to take it's course. Following on from these base principles is the higher order functioning which is gradually being medicalised: Ritalin in shools gets ehcoes in College, Dyspraxia and Dyslexia become more than problems and can thus be safely ignored through complex procedures that seem like support but are really deferred hinderances.
Those people can laugh and eat shit because it is funny.
One day our Staff Room (now called a Work Room in case anyone gets any ideas) gets flooded; everyone spins off into a panic for reasons i just don't understand. We deal with knowledge but somehow most people seem to think it is in there and might get wet.
The final Blood Cycle of Salo tears people apart because, otherwise, there is no way to begin again. There is no future. It's slash and burn and regeneration. Fire Gods in tiny candles, in branding irons. It's an act of social cryptoamnesia, an act of deep social repression that allows the ideas to leak through without their mentors - we can re-enact atrocity with different actors, in different forms, repeating endlessly the mantra:
There is no truth, there is only context, opinion, judgement. And there is never any reason to think that evil is anything other than someone else's truth.
There are targets for everything because then everything can be measured and everyone can be blamed. Achievement, Retention (some Freud in that) - perhaps understandable - but targets for Progression? (i.e. capture) Application to HE? (i.e. capture) Student Support (i.e. capture).
There is legislation that tells us which way the student ought to go. They need to meet those targets. Someone needs that debt even if University is something they will gain nothing from.
You WILL go to the ball...
Pasolini uses a familiar piece of music to soundtrack the final annihilations and this creeps over you, like a now bloated school friend appearing out of the dark.
A Yousendit Verismilitudinal
Like College it ends with a dance.