The Decameron (1971)

decameron poster 1971 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visual: 8/10

Different type of movie

Not everyone will like the stories and framework

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Decameron

Studio:  Produzioni Europee Associate

Genre(s):  Adult/Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  June 29, 1971 (Berlin Film Festival)/December 12, 1971 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

decameron ninetto davoli toilet scene

Sometimes you have a crappy day!

As a man (Pier Paolo Pasolini) sets to paint the perfect mural in a monastery, stories of virtue and vice are prevalent in his mind. A foolish young man finds himself duped and forced to work as a graverobber, a man thinks he’s found the perfect place in a monastery, a woman hides her lover from her husband, a man of sin decides to confess, young lovers set out to trick the girl’s parents, a woman loses her lover to her brothers, a doctor tricks a couple through magic, and a man questions if too much sex leads to damnation.

Written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Decameron (Il Decameron) is a loose adaptation of the stories and concepts of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 1353 morality tale The Decameron. The movie won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival and is considered the first part of Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life films. The Criterion Collection released the film (Criterion #632) as part of the Trilogy of Life box set (Criterion #631).

decameron nightengale wedding

True love…

I always like fables and how old stories were told to present ideas and morality tales. While exploring these issues of virtues and vice, many of these old texts are often more liberally free than modern text and much more sexualized and boundary pushing. While other directors might clean up some of these stories, Pier Paolo Pasolini takes no prisoners.

The movie has a rather weak framework story, but largely feels like a bunch of shorts. This is the pattern of the Trilogy of Life films and the Decameron’s “artist” feels less tied to the stories than that of The Canterbury Tales or Arabian Nights. Despite this, the stories are solid and fun. It does sometimes linger too long on a story while not long enough on another story, but the short stories are meant to be short (like the pot cleaning story). It is a fun watch and if you don’t like a story, it does change quick enough.

decameron virgin mary

Find your vision!

The cast is solid. While many of the actors aren’t known to American audiences, they do a solid job here. Pier Paolo Pasolini plays the artist for the framework story and Pasolini’s longtime companion (and frequent contributor) Ninetto Davoli has maybe the biggest and meatiest role as Andreuccio of Perugia in the introductory story. Franco Citti plays the sinner out to confess his sins.

The story was shot all over Italy, and the locations are great. The age and history of Italy translates to the film and it gains weight from the locations. Scenes like Pasolini’s vision of the Virgin Mary for fresco look like something right out of a Medieval painting…and the whole film pops. The film however is for adults and is loaded with nudity and adult themes in the story.

The Decameron is a different movie that isn’t for everyone. It is largely an anthology piece (like the other films of the Trilogy of Life) and almost along the lines of Monty Python in some ways. Pier Paolo Pasolini had a real vision and his films reflect this. Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life series continued with The Canterbury Tales in 1972.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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