From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Plot and Issues
In summary, the film deals with the film production of the Passion of Jesus with a director acting like Pasolini yet played by Orson Welles. The most biting social critique is shown through the main character of Stracci (meaning "rags"). Stracci is a poor and starving man who works as an extra (ironically, the "good thief") who is not given pity or mercy. Stracci tries everything to get something to eat and he finally does. Unfortunately, he dies on the cross due to indigestion from eating ricotta cheese.
Stracci represents the poor and the marginalized who, according to Pasolini, are neglected by a society, which prides itself on being Christian. Thus, in this view, the Roman Catholicism of Italy is more concerned with status and prominence than helping the poor, a teaching of Christ that Pasolini admired greatly.
The production of the Passion, done outside of Rome, represents a corrupted society who is interested in superficial beauty and yet possesses a corrupted core. This is demonstrated with the extras' lack of interest with the film itself, preferring instead to dance to ya-ya music, lying around during break time and tormenting Stracci. This is also demonstrated in the elaborate poses the director has set up, evoking the great Italian Renaissance, particularly of Pontormo and Fiorentino and yet are far from respected.
The Film's Controversy
Pasolini, in a disclaimer tacked in the beginning of "La ricotta," affirms that he does not hold the Passion itself in contempt. In fact, he made it at the same time he was making The Gospel According to St. Matthew, which would be held in high respect by both director and audience. However, Pasolini was accused of holding contempt for the state religion (ironically, charged under a Fascist law) and was convicted. His imprisonment was four months and the conviction was later declared void by an appeals court.
- "Pasolini, Mamma Roma and 'La ricotta'" by Gary Indiana
- Pasolini by Enzo Sicilano
- Pasolini on Pasolini, interviews by Oswald Stacks
All essays and excerpts can be found in the booklet accompanying the Mamma Roma DVD.