Dir. Vittorio De Sica
IMDb 8.4/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 98%
Golden Globe, Best Foreign Film
Nominated for one Academy Award
NYFCC Award, Best Foreign Language Film
BAFTA Film Award for best film from any source
Academy Awards, Honorary award as the most outstanding foreign language film
To be honest I would never had heard of this film if I never took a film class at my college; let alone to have realized my interest in films as I do now. I’m going to assume that almost all of us reading this don’t speak Italian, but don’t let that be a reason to not view it, I promise you won’t regret seeing, especially if you like independent films.
In a post-World War 2 Rome, Italy the men are desperate for work in the poverty-stricken city. As the film begins a large group of men gather on the steps of a building as a man comes out with a list of jobs. Introduced to the viewer then is Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), a family man with a wife Mari (Lianella Carell), and son Bruno (Enzo Staiola). The man is offering Antonio a job as a bill poster who must have a bike to travel around the city streets. Antonio lets the man know he doesn’t have a bike but takes the job in fear of losing it to another man; thus leading to his wife Maria to pawning off their bed sheets to afford a bike. On the first day of the job a thief robs the unsuspecting Antonio which leads into a long search for his bike, neglecting of his son, and harsh reality of the world.
The strongest aspect of this film is undoubtedly the authenticity. While watching this film I was struck by how real it was; as if we were lucky enough to have a man with a camera following Antonio in his search. What plays into to this is the fact Maggiorani was not a lady killer like Cary Grant. The director Vittorio De Sica chose him to play Antonio because of his facial features, and when I say that I mean; Maggiorani wasn’t even a professional actor at the time, neither was Staiola. The two have a great chemistry together on screen which allows you to really get in tune with story. The wife played by Carell has a convincing supporting role as well.
During this time Hollywood was producing elegant high budget movies in depicting situations that weren’t experienced in a person’s daily life. Bicycle Thieves was part of the Italian neorealism movement in dealing with social issues, poverty, and the conditions of everyday life. When watching this film you are entertained by the search and suspense in finding the thief, but the truth behind the film is for change in our daily lives. A story so simple as a bike being stolen turns into Antonio becoming so wrapped up in finding the bike to make money for his family that he slowly neglects his son. There is a scene Bruno almost gets hit by a car twice and Antonio doesn’t even notice and continues walking. The theme that caught my attention was that you never know how important something is to somebody. The thief took the bike out of fun or maybe that he needed it for a job as well, but didn’t stop to think if Antonio really needed the bike or not. This is something that happens in everyday life. People steal valuable objects from houses, or a car that a man needs to get to work to provide for his family. The films aim was to help the viewer realize this and make a change for the better. There is a lot to talk about in this film and the best way is to view it yourself. A few scenes that stand out to me is when Bruno watches the rich family eating in the restaurant, the first morning the ride there bike, and the final moments of the movie 😉
Despite my praise for the film, the main issue for me was that I had to read subtitles. I’m glad this wasn’t made in America because the viewer is able to see a grand city but sometimes it’s easy to miss out on certain facial expressions or little things in the background due to reading subtitles. Other than that I love the pacing of the film, it’s realistic and not over exaggerated. The film is accompanied by a great score and some classic Italian music. Rome in 1948 looked to be a beautiful city. The film fully captures the streets and everyday life that was carried out. There is a little something for everyone in this movie; an entertaining search, great visuals of Rome, and strong themes intertwined. In the world of cinema Bicycle Thieves is one of the greatest achievements due to its realism that it installed in future films. A film i’d recommend for everyone to see.
Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★★★
“I mind my own business, I bother nobody, and what do I get? Trouble.”