The Oil Route was commissioned to Bertolucci after he directed Before the Revolution (1964) by Enrico Mattei’s ENI and Italy’s State television (Rai). Starting from a painstaking documentation and research work, the director put together a film brimming with introspection, poetry and the early signs of the epic spirit that would later give rise to the grand portrait of Novecento. The journey of “black gold” begins in Persia where it is drilled, continues up the Suez Canal aboard an oil tanker and ends into a pipeline that trasports it from Genoa to Bavaria. A section of the film is devoted to each step in this journey. The Origins tells about the primaeval elements - Earth and Fire - in a spectacular, almost magical way; The Journey brims with hints to the history of cinema and literature; Across Europe focuses on a journalist who follows the underground pipeline step by step, even on foot, and has a more intimate, personal touch, with objectivity and subjectivity blending constantly into each other. Filtered by Bertolucci’s style and sensitivity, this important assignment (one of only a handful of documentaries he made in his career) is handled by the director as an endless Q&A session between the author and the tale he has been asked to tell. Bertolucci himself stated: “I filmed the drillers as pioneers of an archaic West and the helicopter pilots as anarchical, self-centered heroes, just like characters from a Godard movie or from ‘Only Angels Have Wings”.