ROME (Reuters) - Bruce Springsteen usually rocks from a stage but "The Boss" was in a quiet, cerebral and reflective mood at the Rome film festival for the screening of a new documentary on the making of one of his greatest albums.
"Sometimes you look for the story but it finds you," he said in hushed tones after a screening of "The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town," by director Thom Zimmy.
On Monday night, Springsteen, Zimmy and manager Jon Landau spoke on the stage as fans who normally shake, rattle and roll sat at times in awe-struck silence as The Boss took on an almost professorial role despite his black leather jacket.
The film, which is in competition in the festival's extra section, shifts back and forth between now and the period between 1976 and 1978 when Springsteen and his E Street Band created, rehearsed and recorded the landmark rock album.
Zimmy took hours of sometimes grainy black-and-white footage made more than 30 years ago and spliced it with interviews with Springsteen and band members now to bring the creative process to life in two time zones: yesterday and today.
Springsteen was only 26 then. He had already become an overnight superstar with the hard-driving "Born to Run." But he wanted his next album to be different.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary is Springsteen's many notebooks. He wrote as many as 70 songs during the process but only 10 of them made it on to the album.
An indefatigable re-writer, phrase honer and riff perfectionist, the documentary shows Springsteen anguishing over the search for the right word or phrase and sometimes swapping phrases from one song to the other.
"I hear it differently in my head," he tells sometimes exasperated band members several times.
The documentary includes footage of the Springsteen family while Bruce was growing up in New Jersey. In one scene, the now 61-year-old Springsteen describes how his father was the inspiration for one of the album's most famous songs: Factory.
Springsteen's father worked in a plastics plant and lost some of his hearing because workers wore no protection back then.
He describes how he once brought his father a bag lunch to the factory but his father did not even know his son was right behind him because of the high decibel level.
Zimmy splices footage of E Street Band members more than 30 years ago and cuts quick to the same person, now grey, heavier and wrinkled, today.
The effect is a message that time passes for everyone, even rock stars, but the flame that once produced one of the rock's greatest albums is still there.
Apart from recollections by Springsteen, Landau and members of the band, the documentary includes modern interviews with Springsteen's wife Patti Scialfa and Patti Smith, a singer/songwriter and artist who was a major influence on the New York City Punk rock movement.
Springsteen was the original creative force behind Smith's 1978 hit "Because the Night."
He had written the music and the words of the chorus but he gave her the song to finish and says in the documentary that he has no regrets because she made it come to life.
Later this month Sony Music will be releasing a deluxe package made up of more than six hours of film and unseen footage and more than two hours of audio made between 1976 and 1978.
The package contains three CDs, one with the re-mastered version of the "Darkness" album and two with 21 previously unreleased songs.
Editing by Paul Casciato