17 August 2020 | dmgrundy
The force of the collective
'Requiescant' stands out from the Euro-western crowd for the appearance of Pier Paolo Pasolini himself, in a rare acting cameo as the Mexican priest Don Juan, who, despite his name, is less a man of the flesh than an ascetic liberation theology advocate who drifts in and out of the narrative at key points. The titular hero, played by Lou Castel, is the sole survivor of a local landowner's massacre of the peasants in the ruined chapel which serves as the film's opening and climactic acts of violence: the massacre and the act of liberation which avenges it. That structure, of a suppressed violence which the hero (and audience) slowly come to understand, in an inevitable journey of violence begetting violence, is familiar from Leone, from 'Django', from numerous other Euro-westerns of the periods. Here, though, as usual, it's framed through the figure of the lone gunfighter, it's given a greater collective dimension. Requiescant, adopted by a religious family (hence his habit of saying a prayer over those he's killed), seeks to rescue his adopted sister from the clutches of the landowner who runs the town as a connected network of vice, of semi-legitimated criminality based on exploitation and dispossession. His act of violence against the landowner and his henchmen simultaneously serves his own personal quest for revenge and the interests of the peasants led by Pasolini (which the flashback structure reveals to be connected). As in Glauber Rocha's later 'Antonio das Mortes', Lizzani suggests that the individualist gunslinger, whose skill and firepower are need in the struggle--and who remains a figure of cinematic lore and popular fantasy more than a historical figure--is also ultimately subsidiary to the force of the collective.