The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics

The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics

The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics

The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics


In works by filmmakers from Bertolucci to Spielberg, debauched images of nazi and fascist eroticism, symbols of violence and immorality, often bear an uncanny resemblance to the images and symbols once used by the fascists themselves to demarcate racial, sexual, and political others. This book exposes the "madness" inherent in such a course, which attests to the impossibility of disengaging visual and rhetorical constructions from political, ideological, and moral codes. Kriss Ravetto argues that contemporary discourses using such devices actually continue unacknowledged rhetorical, moral, and visual analogies of the past. Against postwar fictional and historical accounts of World War II in which generic images of evil characterize the nazi and the fascist, Ravetto sets the more complex approach of such filmmakers as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Liliana Cavani, and Lina Wertmuller. Her book asks us to think deeply about what it means to say that we have conquered fascism, when the aesthetics of fascism still describe and determine how we look at political figures and global events.


In my opinion the ambiguity of human nature and therefore historical ambiguity is the necessary
point of departure in understanding different obsessions with the past. in fact, it is the analysis
of “ignorance” in response to the events of World War II that may be examined if we are to bet
ter understand the ignorance allowed during the war, that allowed for the rise of the dictators.
There is a reason to scandalize this Milanese notion of surviving: the world does not want to know!
It does not want go forward only to fall back into this ambiguity … My film is not liberating like
some political films. These political films make it easy for the public to identify themselves with
righteous characters: it is interesting to think about how the audience will bring themselves to
identify with my protagonists: they might feel very embarrassed. Is it possible to identify oneself
with an ambiguous character? To recognize oneself in him?

—Liliana Cavani

“Use me,” and this means: There is no me … the question of passivity is not the question of
slavery, the question of dependency not the plea to be dominated. There is no dialectic of the
slave, neither Hegel's nor the dialectic of the hysteric according to Lacan, both presupposing the
permutation of roles on the inside of a space of domination. This is all macho bull shit. “Use me”:
a statement of vertiginous simplicity, it is not mystical, but materialist. Let me be your surface and
your tissues, you may be my orifices and my palms and my membranes, we could lose ourselves,
leave the power and the squalid justification of the dialectic of redemption.

—Jean-Franςois Lyotard

Since The Night Porter (1974), Salò (1975), and Seven Beauties (1976) were produced during Europe's volatile and politically unstable “anni di piombo” / “die bleierne Zeit”

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