Lina Wertmüller Konrad Kellen - Essay

Konrad Kellen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The stage direction is vast, the images are impressive, the spectacle is spectacular, the photography sensational. The content is filth, insanity, trash.

Lina [in Seven Beauties] generates her own world of insane, vicious, filthy unreality and palms off her own world to the moral and mental illiterates without number in the Western world as a hot piece of realism, a hot piece of art, a hot morality play.

Lina's shtick scores a number of firsts even in our era of bloody, sordid and raucous entertainment. What is outstanding is her using the victims of Nazism as mere props, background, scenery—extras. No matter how exploitative, and therefore counter-productive, past renditions of the victims of Nazi bestiality may have been, the victims were at least treated seriously, given center stage…. Not so in Seven Beauties. There, quaint corpses hang from meathooks, emaciated prisoners are whipped and brutalized, inmates are shot and driven to suicide, merely as decoration, as scenery designed to enhance the effect of what must be the most swinish and degrading sex scenes ever shown on screen, made all the more swinish and degrading because they are built upon that background. (p. 59)

Wertmuller uses the agony of Auschwitz not just as backdrop for some depraved and ridiculous sexual fantasy, but as a joke. This is something new, surpassing in intellectual and moral depravity all that "entertainers" have so far done. Even the Nazis did not treat the extermination camps as a joke…. Never before has anyone, no matter how foul his taste, how depraved his imagination, how unrestrained his lust for money and success, made audiences, while they put away their sodas and peanut brittle, laugh and giggle over a look into Hitler's chamber of horrors. (pp. 59-60)

Konrad Kellen, "'Seven Beauties': Auschwitz—The Ultimate Joke?" in Midstream (copyright © 1976 by The Theodor Herzl Foundation, Inc.), Vol. XXII, No. 8, October, 1976, pp. 59-66.