Pier Paolo Pasolini Biography

(Italian Filmmaker Known for His Radical Methods, Overtly Political and Often Scandalous Content)

Birthday: March 5, 1922 (Pisces)

Born In: Bologna, Italy

Pier Paolo Pasolini was a renowned Italian poet, novelist, motion-picture director, playwright and political figure. Having discovered a passion for the arts early in life, he was able to move seamlessly between drawing, painting, writing, poetry and filmmaking. A published poet at the age of nineteen, he went on produce some memorable poetry collections. Like his novels, his films too focused on the imperfect yet relatable youths from the borgate (Rome’s slums) of his time. To capture that neorealistic authenticity, he often enrolled non-professional actors to play certain roles, and used the power of classical music to add texture to the complexity of dramatic scenes in his feature films. His filmmaking style was very direct, and it dealt with a lot of controversial issues like sexual taboos, religion and politics. A champion of modern linguistic theory that he was, his idea of directing a film was akin to making true poetry, which therefore required reality to be expressed through scenes that felt untainted and visceral. His interpretation of Marxism and Catholic values remained a recurring theme in his works of art; he would often label himself a Catholic Communist. Being an avowed homosexual, however, meant that he had to endure several court cases and threats to his livelihood and well-being throughout his adult life.

Quick Facts

Italian Celebrities Born In March

Died At Age: 53


Spouse/Ex-: Ninetto Davoli

father: Carlo Alberto Pasolini

mother: Susanna Pasolini

siblings: Guidalberto Pasolini

Born Country: Italy

Directors Italian Men

Height: 5'6" (168 cm), 5'6" Males

Died on: November 2, 1975

place of death: Ostia, Italy

Ancestry: Polish Italian

Cause of Death: Assassination

City: Bologna, Italy

Notable Alumni: University Of Bologna

More Facts

education: University Of Bologna

  • 1

    What were Pier Paolo Pasolini's main contributions to Italian cinema?

    Pier Paolo Pasolini was a prominent Italian filmmaker known for his distinctive style that blended elements of neorealism and avant-garde cinema. He often explored controversial themes such as the intersection of politics, religion, and sexuality in his films.

  • 2

    What impact did Pier Paolo Pasolini's works have on Italian society?

    Pasolini's works challenged societal norms and structures, sparking debates on issues such as class struggle, consumerism, and the role of religion in modern society. His films often provoked strong reactions and forced audiences to confront uncomfortable truths about Italian society.

  • 3

    How did Pier Paolo Pasolini's background influence his filmmaking?

    Pasolini's upbringing in the small town of Friuli and his experience as a teacher in impoverished areas deeply influenced his worldview and artistic vision. This background informed his films' focus on marginalized communities and his critique of social injustices.

  • 4

    What were some of the key themes in Pier Paolo Pasolini's films?

    Pasolini's films often explored themes such as the struggle for individual freedom within oppressive systems, the relationship between power and violence, and the tension between tradition and modernity. His works were known for their raw and unflinching portrayal of human suffering and desire.

  • 5

    How did Pier Paolo Pasolini's poetry and literature influence his filmmaking?

    Pasolini's background as a poet and writer imbued his films with a lyrical and philosophical quality. His poetic sensibility shaped the visual and narrative elements of his films, leading to a unique cinematic style that blended realism with allegory and symbolism.

Childhood & Early Life

Pier Paolo Pasolini was born on 5 March 1922, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Bologna of then Kingdom of Italy; the same year Mussolini seized power in Rome.

His father, Carlo Alberto Pasolini, served an infantry lieutenant for the Fascist government. His mother, Susanna Colussi, was a trained schoolteacher who passed on her love for books to her kids.

His father’s military career meant the family had to move around the country a lot. Reading literature and poetry of the likes of Novalis, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky etc. thus helped him stay grounded throughout the tumultuous relocations.

In 1939, he enrolled into University of Bologna’s Literature College. There, he discovered new concepts of figurative arts like aesthetics and philology.

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Pier Pablo Pasolini joined the military in 1943. Soon after, the Germans took his regiment as prisoner following the surrender of Italy. However, he managed to escape and took refuge in Casarsa with his family.

Together with other Friulian language aficionados, he began a magazine Stroligùt di cà da l'aga. The magazine’s first issue came out in May 1944.

He and his friends formed the Academiuta di lenga furlana [Friulian Language Academy] in February 1945. During his time with the Academiuta, he published two poetry collections, I Diarii and I Pianti as well as an Italian drama.

Around the time when he was secondary school teacher, he was elected secretary of the Casarsa cell of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in 1947. But a controversy about him corrupting the local youth through homosexual conduct soon ensued.

Following the fracas in Casarsa, he was forced to move to Rome sometime in the early 1950s where he found work at one of the Cinecittà film studios. With the help of another poet, Vittorio Clemente, he found a second job as a teacher in a suburb, just outside of Rome.

By 1954, Pier Paolo Pasolini left his teaching job, and was working fulltime for the Cinecittà’s literary section. The studio made accommodations for him and his ailing father.

He published his first major poem collection, The Ashes of Gramsci in 1955, which received appreciation from all quarters. Ragazzi de vita, his first of many novels, too was published that same year.

After a brief stint writing dialogues for Italian films, he made his directorial debut with Accattone in 1961.

In 1962, in his film, Mama Roma, he casted non-professional actors with Anna Magnani: a celebrated actress at the time.

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In 1963, he directed an episode in the anthology film, RoGoPaG. The movie was censored in Italy and he was tried for blasphemy by the Italian state. As a consequence, he was briefly imprisoned.

His filmmaking during the mid-1960s began examining Marxism and Christianity through the lens of hard satire. The first was The Gospel according to St. Matthew which drew praise from Catholic groups. The second, Hawks and Sparrows starring the great Totò was a satire.

Between 1967 to 1969, he through his films experimented with concepts of ideology and myth. Oedipus Rex and Medea were adaptations from Greek mythology, whereas Teorema and Pigpen showcased the ill effects of a commodified Western culture.

The trio of movies, namely Arabian Nights, Canterbury Tales and Decameron he made during the early 1970s were more for the mass market than his usual elite international audience.

In 1976, his film, The 120 Days of Sodom (or Salò), was a nightmarish story set in 1944 Italy. It was his way of moving away from commercial filmmaking and back into conceptual space. It also happened to be his final film.

Major Works

The Ashes of Gramsci (1957) remains his most famous collection of poetry. He wrote it as tribute to the founder of the Italian Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci. It created a buzz in the literary circles of Italy last seen during the time of D’Annuzio.

His approach to filmmaking took on a poetic brilliance of sorts through the use of individual camera shots as continuous, autonomous units. Thus, his film, The Gospel, created some of the most literal yet moving interpretations of the story of Jesus Christ.

Family & Personal Life

Pier Pablo Pasolini had a brother, Guido, who joined the Party of Action and served in their Osoppo-Friuli brigade as a nineteen-year-old. He was killed in an ambush by Italian partisans while serving with Yugoslavian guerilla fighters formed by Josip Tito.

An avowed homosexual, he identified as a Catholic communist. Yet, he drew the ire of the church, society and government. In 1949, he was sacked from his teaching post, as well as the PCI after charges of corrupting minors through homosexual misconducts were levied against him.

His dead body was recovered at the beachside in Ostia on 2 November 1975. Forensic investigation later revealed gruesome accounts of broken bones, crushed genitalia and partial burns. His remains were finally laid to rest in his hometown Casarsa.

Facts About Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini was not only a renowned filmmaker and writer, but also a talented painter and poet who explored various artistic mediums throughout his career.

Pasolini was known for his outspoken and controversial views on politics, society, and culture, often challenging the status quo with his thought-provoking works.

Despite his controversial reputation, Pasolini was deeply passionate about social justice and used his art as a platform to address issues such as poverty, inequality, and the struggles of marginalized communities.

Pasolini had a unique and eclectic personal style, often mixing elements of traditional Italian culture with avant-garde aesthetics in his films and writings.

Pier Paolo Pasolini Movies

1. La Dolce Vita (1960)

  (Comedy, Drama)

2. The Nights of Cabiria (1957)


3. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

  (History, Biography, Drama)

4. Mamma Roma (1962)


5. Il gobbo (1960)

  (War, Drama)

6. Accattone (1961)


7. Love Meetings (1964)


8. The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966)

  (Drama, Comedy, Fantasy)

9. Oedipus Rex (1967)


10. Appunti per un romanzo dell'immondezza (1970)


See the events in life of Pier Paolo Pasolini in Chronological Order

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