Watch Willem Dafoe Channel Pasolini in New Biopic Trailer

Biennale di Venezia

The film about the great director’s last days premieres Thursday in Venice

Before arriving at the New York and Toronto Film Festivals later this month, Abel Ferrara’s much anticipated biopic of Pier Paolo Pasolini (starring Willem Dafoe as the influential Italian director) premieres tomorrow at The Venice International Film Festival.

As was reported by The Hollywood Reporter last month, the film weaves the events of Pasolini's last days with scenes Ferrara shot from Pasolini's final projects: the unfinished novel Petrolio and the screenplay Porno-Teo-Kolossal. In the trailer, we see Pasolini hard at work on his newest creations while catching the first glimpses of Ferrara's re-imagining of these unfinished works, which includes footage of a fireworks-lit orgy and an old man searching for the messiah.

Making a film about a real-life European artist, philosopher, journalist and professor might seem like an unusual move for the director best known for over-the-top and salacious stories of a degenerate cop (Bad Lieutenant), a ruthless gangster (King of New York) and rape victim-turned-homicidal-vigilante (Ms. 45). The trailer though highlights that Ferrara likely has found a kindred spirit in his hero Pasolini, who could be equally pessimistic about modern existence.

Dafoe as Pasolini says, “There are no more human beings, just machines colliding into each other,” which is later followed by disturbing footage from Pasolini’s controversial Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Ferrara has also taken a turn toward material based on real life later in his career, even dabbling with documentaries (Mulberry St. and Chelsea on the Rocks). For Pasolini, Ferrara says he took a documentary-like approach and meticulously researched his subject. Last spring, the director went so far as to make news by proclaiming that he knew who actually killed Pasolini. While it’s not clear what evidence Ferrara has dug up, the 1975 murder of Pasolini, who was run over multiple times by his own car, has long been a source of controversy. The case was re-opened in 2005.