The film is divided into three sections set in different eras. The opening takes place in 1920s Italy, and recounts a birth that echoes that of the director himself, the product of a beautiful bourgeoisie’s affair with a military officer. The mid-section depicts a time "outside of history" - it is here that the myth of Oedipus (portrayed by Franco Citti of Accattone and Coppola's The Godfather), one of patricide and incest, plays out opposite the young man's mother/lover (Silvana Mangano). An epilogue shot on the streets of present-day Bologna finds Oedipus playing his flute for a bustling citizenry.
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