When Pier Paolo Pasolini, a personality of looming proportions, was murdered in 1975, rather than coming together, the pieces of his blazing existence were thrown in random directions. His body, run over several times with his own car, lay overnight on the beach of Idroscallo at Ostia to be found by a woman around 6 am. the next morning.
The tragedy had a sordid ring to it. Alberto Moravia claimed that his end resembled his work and yet was unlike him. As an artist, literary figure, film maker and avowed homosexual, Pasolini’s life had the contours of a Renaissance man. His chiseled features added to his magnetic personality. He knew life could be intense and he only lived it that way.
Born in Bologna in 1922 to a military father and a school-teacher mother, Pasolini had from a very early age a penchant for words and literature. He always expressed devotion to his mother and to his younger brother Guido, killed by one of the factions of the anti Mussolini resistance.
After years of teaching, he was introduced to the world of films as a script writer. His first film as a director, “Accattone“, was a translation to the screen of his book “The Ragazzi,” a reflection of the world of prostitutes and pimps in postwar Rome. His gritty evocation of a period leaves the spectator with a nihilist sensation. The lack of redemption of the protagonists is even more poignant in “Mamma Roma”, his second movie with one of the divas of the Italian cinema, Anna Magnani. The iconic actress, a public woman with a heart of gold, decides to abandon the sex trade to offer a better life to her son, only to see her dreams crushed when her own redemption cannot save her child from a life of crime .
Then came years of critical acclaim and controversial productions. He gave Callas her first and only non-singing role in Medea and employed non-actors as protagonists of some of his movies, casting them often with well-known stars like Terence Stamp or Silvana Mangano.
For a man whose opus ran from bringing to film a political and unfussy life of Jesus to writing Marxist novels, he fed the lines of his emotional and intellectual life without self-indulgence or speculation. He was an icon to the avant-gardes, to the politically committed and to the disinherited.
By the time his life ended at Idroscallo, he had a long string of festival-applauded films to his credit. His murderer, a street boy named Pino Pelosi, confessed to the crime. The evidence pointed to more than one individual but the case was closed without any further investigation. Pelosi was convicted of homicide. Thirty years later he disavowed the crime, hinting at more than one participant. This confession complicated a puzzle that was already contemplating another scenario: that of a political “vendetta”. Pasolini was about to publish a novel based on real characters where the financial and political interests of the corrupt Italian elites colluded.
His terrible end added more fascination to his charismatic persona. The mystery of the how and the why remains entire, as if he were reaching out from the other side insisting we should not forget him.