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Werner Schroeter transforms Oscar Wilde's play about the famed Biblical temptress into a wild Pasolinian spectacle shot among ancient Roman ruins in Lebanon.
Prized by Schroeter as a personal favourite, Salome transforms Oscar Wilde's play about the famed temptress into rustic spectacle. Shot on the grand steps of Baalbeck, the ancient Roman ruin in Lebanon, and decked out with outlandish costumes and a music track that combines Arabic and German folk songs with Verdi, Wagner, Strauss, Bellini, Donizetti and Mozart, the film retells the tale of Herod's daughter, who demands the head of John the Baptist on a platter in reward for dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils. Attempting to maintain the nineteenth-century feel of the play, Schroeter nevertheless turns it very much into his own wild thing, casting a bald, android-looking Magdalena Montezuma as Herod and making sure Salome reveals all in her lascivious shimmy. Pasolini seems to have been the guiding spirit of Schroeter's rendition: the hieratic tone, lavish costumes, and the conflation of Christianity and paganism, folk and classical music, and ancient and modern all suggest the Italian master's influence. "Sublimely severe" (Chuck Stephens, Film Comment).