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From Isfahan to Ingolstadt

From Isfahan to Ingolstadt

Bertolucci’s La via del petrolio and the Global Culture of Neorealism

(p.145) 8 From Isfahan to Ingolstadt
Oil Culture
Georgiana Banita
University of Minnesota Press

This chapter analyzes Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1967 documentary La via del petrolio as an experimental attempt to visualize the flow of oil from Iranian fields to Italian refineries, an attempt that ultimately figures petroleum as a wondrous vehicle of transnational unity reconnecting post-World War II Europe. La via del petrolio (“The Oil Route”) was sponsored by ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi), Italy’s state-owned oil and gas company. The film uncovers how nationalist effusion dovetailed with petro-imperial overreach to weave a culture of exuberant potency, almost a corporate cult, around ENI and the future it promised for a dejected nation in the long aftermath of the war. This chapter examines how La via del petrolio relates to neorealism and suggests that it is a groundbreaking testament to how cinema as an art form and the industry of filmmaking overall can reflect a reality drenched in the promise of energy and petro-industrialization.

Keywords:   oil, Bernardo Bertolucci, La via del petrolio, Iran, ENI, Italy, neorealism, cinema, energy, petro-industrialization

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