Poetry of Squalor: Exploring the Borgata in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Accattone


Don Marquis once wrote a poem about a fly who argued that he was ‘a vessel of righteousness scattering seeds of justice’ by helping to rid the world of alcoholics and the iniquitous who succumbed to the germs he carried to them. In justification stretched to absurdity, Marquis makes the point that grime, poverty and squalor do not constitute attractive subjects— surely it is easier to be enticed by bright lights and beauty, more tempting to revel in glitz, glamour and grandeur. Yet Pasolini’s Rome as depicted in his early films centers precisely on such wretchedness: set predominantly in the urban periphery, Pasolini’s camera determinedly avoids the more pleasant sights of the Pantheon or the Trevi Fountain, preferring instead the grimness of the borgate or the wilderness in the city outskirts. This essay focuses on Pasolini’s cinematic representation of the Roman slums, or the borgate, in Accattone by analysing on various levels its significance as a specific topographical space. My primary argument is that Pasolini’s alternate take on the borgate, replete with myth, utopian idealism and ideological ambition, nonetheless remains a flawed striving of romanticism,  whose redemption remains out of reach, and whose doom is inescapable.


ugliness, beauty

How to Cite

Ng, P., (2007) “Poetry of Squalor: Exploring the Borgata in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Accattone”, Opticon1826 2.







Pei-Suin Ng (UCL)





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