#32 - Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica)


On the Streets of Rome

I honestly do not know too much about the Italian neorealist movement apart from a few Visconti films that I’ve seen. It’s not a period of film that I ever really dedicated my studies to, but the neorealist films that I’ve seen so far make me want to do some reading up. What I do know is that the films that are considered to be of this style deal with the hardships of the lower social sphere of life in post WW2 Italy, and that they are stylistically much more somber than what came before them, or what was even popular at the time. At least that much is obvious.

This is most certainly true of Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves”, which many seem to consider as the signature film of the movement. The film has a very naturalistic feel which certainly comes from its all-amateur cast and the fact that most of it takes place on the busy streets of Rome. The cinematography further elevates this effect in that it has a very fly-on-the-wall feeling, with its mostly locked off and unintrusive shots. Actually the same could be said about the whole production, all the elements are very much designed to accentuate the realism of the scenes.

Which is rather fitting because the story of “Bicycle Thieves” is not one of epic proportions, so the stylistic minimalism is a perfect fit indeed. It’s very hard not to sympathize with the man who is looking for his stolen bike with his son, a bike that basically his life depends on. The film portrays the poverty of the family and the general situation in Rome at the time with much compassion - a compassion that sometimes even spills in to sentimentalism. But luckily even if it does get overly sentimental at times it never feels dishonest.

Apart from De Sica’s light-handed direction a great reason for this are the wonderful performances he gets from his actors. The standout performance for me is the one of the boy, Bruno, which surely can be considered one of the finest child performances in cinema.

And although all this might sound like a rather tiring film to watch, it really is not. The film has a wonderful pacing and is masterfully executed in its simplicity. The main draw is the journey and the father-son relationship at the center of it, which pays off in spades before the film is over because it’s something that pretty much everyone can relate to.

“Bicycle Thieves” is a wonderful film. It’s an easy film to recommend because the story is universal and emotionally engaging. It’s almost uncanny with what effortlessness the film works its ways and that is just a testament to the mastery behind it. I find it sometimes odd that the simplest stories of this kind are the most profound, but that’s how it is. And “simple” and “profound” are two good words to describe “Bicycle Thieves”.

Original title: Ladri di biciclette


Lamberto Maggiorani - Antonio Ricci
Enzo Staiola - Bruno Ricci
Lianella Carell - Maria Ricci
Gino Saltamerenda - Baiocco

Original language: Italian

Bicycle Thieves on IMDb

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