Thursday, 16 March 2017

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Fig 1 - Bicycle Thieves Poster
Bicycle Thieves is a sweet yet tragic story of a working class family in post-war Italy, whose lives are turned upside down by a simple, albeit devastating bike theft. Father of the family Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani) is chosen among a crowd of desperate workers for a position posting advertisements around Rome. However, the position requires that Antonio must have a bike in order to be working for them. After explaining this to his wife Maria (Lianella Carell), they sell the bed sheets given to them as wedding gifts in order to pay for the bike. Their son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) is dropped off at work as a gas station attendant while Antonio starts his first day on the job, where soon after finding his feet, his bicycle is stolen. What follows becomes a wild goose-chase to track down the stolen bike, leading Antonio and Bruno through many challenges and predicaments.

At it's core, the film is a morality tale that is almost sermon-like in the way it plays out. Director Vittorio De Sica establishes the reality of a society impoverished by war and displays a blatant atmosphere of desperation among the working classes. The use of non-professional actors somehow heightens this reality, as the character of Antonio seems to represent the struggles of an average man attempting to maintain his dignity in times of sorrow. The final scene in particular highlights the lengths to which Antonio is pushed by the unfortunate circumstances of life, and ultimately turns the film on its head as a heart-breaking example of why 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind'.

Fig 2 - Bicycle Thieves - Antonio and Bruno
I enjoyed the film for a number of reasons. For one, it is representative of the class divide in a very broad sense. Particularly during the scene in which Antonio gives up hope and takes his son to a high-end restaurant, in which Bruno and the son of a wealthy child nearby are caught staring at one another. To Bruno, this is the finest treat he could ask for, but the other child is somewhat irreverent to his own luck. And these themes continue as universal concepts today, which manages to not date the film. Speaking of which, for a 1948 production it is somewhat timeless in its direction. At no point did I feel I was watching something outdated, which I put to the incredibly modern use of shot framing and camera angles.

Overall I found the film to be incredibly poignant in it's simplicity. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be enchanted by this film and the message it demonstrates.



Fig. 1 Bicycle Thieves Poster (1948) From: Bicycle Thieves - Directed by: Vittorio De Sica

Fig. 2 Bicycle Thieves Screenshot (1948) From: Bicycle Thieves - Directed by: Vittorio De Sica

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