Sebastiane (1976)

X   |    |  Drama, Romance


Sebastiane (1976) Poster

Reassigned to a lowly outpost, a Roman guard's Christian beliefs clash with his gay commander's desire for closeness. Being tortured becomes pleasurable.


6.1/10
2,519

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11 July 2003 | dinky-4
The "Gone With the Wind" of homoerotic fantasies
It's surprising more comments haven't been posted for this production which, at the time of its original release, created quite a stir. Perhaps the film's failure to create a continuing subgenre of imitators is to blame, but then, that makes it a one-of-a-kind effort and efforts of this sort deserve remembering as well.

Looking back on the film from more than a quarter of a century, it seems clear that normal criteria concerning story, dialog, and character simply don't apply here. Instead, one must simply view it as a feverish, almost hallucinogenic fantasy drenched with homoerotic, sadomasochistic imagery that is played out against a sun-drenched dreamscape on the Sardinian coast. Think of it as a high-class photo shoot for an avant-garde fashion magazine specializing in loincloths and Roman military paraphernalia.

Having the dialog spoken in Latin can be dismissed as a "gimmick" but actually it adds to the film's air of mystery and unreality. If only some of the anachronisms could have been avoided!

Considering the possibilities, there's surprisingly little sex here, though it's a subject often discussed and, indeed, the whole film is imbued with an air of desire and yearning. On the other hand, there's a plethora of bondage and torture. Leonardo Treviglio, who plays the title character and who spends most of the movie in no more than a loincloth, is hanged by his wrists and flogged, burned with a flame, staked out spreadeagle-style under the scorching sun, and finally shot full of arrows. Curiously, his most memorable torment is also the simplest. Barney James, playing the commanding officer who's torn by conflicting emotions, takes a handful of sand and grinds it into Treviglio's bare torso, blurring the lines between pleasure and pain, between lust and longing. It's a memorable moment in a movie that is now half-forgotten ... like one of those dreams which fade from the mind after you awaken, even though you try to recall the details.

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