WORK PROJECT: Pasolini, Bakhtin and Film
Myrto Konstantarakos, Middlesex University, England
Though there is no sign whatsoever that Mikhail Bakhtin and Pier Paolo Pasolini knew each other's work they share a striking communality of thought. The similarities in their views on language are widely recognized. We find Bakhtin's dialogism at work in Pasolini's prose and films, for instance in his use of free indirect speech-vision and in his use of actors. Another concept central to both thinkers is carnival. During the festivity and the carnival as portrayed by Rabelais, the marginalized and the oppressed take centre stage and overthrow authority by turning the world upside down. While Pasolini was drawn to this behaviour in his own life, his films in particular contain the abusive language, nicknames and representation of the «lower bodily functions» (copulation, food, urination, defecation) identified and praised by Bakhtin as essential elements of popular carnival.
Contrary to Pasolini, Bakhtin shows a lack of interest in cinema. This is all the more surprising given thet his peers were very enthused by this flourishing medium in the Soviet régime of the time. Did Bakhtin view film with the same suspicion as he viewed drama because of the monologism implied by the loud intonation of performance? I would argue that film is far more a form of writing because of its "recorded" status. Film is therefore, like novel, a dialogic genre.
Although Bakhtin did not actually write on film, the categories identified by him have been applied to cinema amongst others by Gérard Genette, Julia Kristeva, Gilles Deleuze, Rinaldo Rinaldi, Naomi Greene and Robert Stam, but they have concentrated mainly on dialogism and carnival. The concept of chronotope has to date not received nearly as much attention. Corpi e luoghi by Giuseppe Perrella and Michele Mancini is one of the only essays going in this direction, but unfortunately they analyze only Pasolini's films and do not say anthing about time which is, in Bakhtin's view, indissociable from space.
My contention is that space and time are central to the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini as he constantly opposes inside with outside: city centers with periphery, but also enclosed spaces with streets. These oppositions imply movement of the characters between interior and exterior, which has to be slow for one has to realize one is changing worlds, as it were. Spatial oppositions are matched by temporal ones, as characters' movements take place mainly at night or in the middle of very hot days when, whatever the time of year, no one is around. Light contrasts with obscurity, winter with summer. Ultimately, however, Pasolini aims to resolve these contradictions in a quest for unity, which is particularly overt in his posthumous novel Petrolio.
- Naomi Greene, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
- Michele Mancini and Giuseppe Perrella, Corpi e luoghi, Rome: Theorema edizioni, 1981.
- Silvestra Mariniello, "Toward a Material Linguistics: Pasolini's Theories of Languages", 106-26, in Pier Paolo Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. by Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
- Pier Paolo Pasolini, Petrolio, Turin: Einaudi, 1992.
- Robert Stam, Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism and Film, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
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