Bicycle Thieves - A Timeless Classic

                             The most influential movement in film history consisted of about 20 movies produced between 1944 and 1952. Vittorio De Sica's 1948 neo-realist masterpiece, Bicycle Thieves(Ladri di biciclette) was one of the movie, which had a huge inspiration over directors like Jean-Luc Goddard, Satyajit Ray. Neo-realism became the popular film-making style, which characterized the simple depiction of lower-class life.

                            Neo-realism is understood as a rebirth for Italian movie industry after world war II, and a means for representing human experience outside the conventions of the Hollywood entertainment film. A lot of the great old movies might seem really dated now. Not this one. It packed every bit of the power today that it did more than sixty five years ago. The unforgettable scenes, like the look on Bruno's face when he realizes that the men are chasing his father, are just unforgettable. 

    On a street, Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) stands with a crowd of unemployed family men, all hands-up and crying for a job. The only job available requires a bicycle and though he doesn't have one, Ricci quickly raises his hand announcing that he has such a bike. By selling the sheets off his bed, Ricci and his son Bruno (Staiola) are able to secure a pawned bike from a local pawn shop.

                         The job is to paste large posters in the walls, around the city. On his first day of work, Ricci is busy slapping paste on a Rita Hayworth film poster and smoothing it out when another desperate man runs off with his bicycle. The police are of little help. Ricci has a single day to find his cycle, before his job on Monday. That leads us to some classic and unforgettable scenes.

        Inspired by Luigi Bartolini novel, Bicycle Thieves is clearly a product of its times, with a stark portrayal of unemployment, and poverty. Yet, apart from its political view, the film's enduring appeal lies in it's human story, which focuses on a father's proud determination to sustain his household.  Using non-actors to portray the working class life of people struggling with poverty, The Bicycle Thief fulfills the essential characteristics of Italian neo-realism.

                    The actors are astounding, because they lived the desperation that Di Sica wanted to portray. Maggiorani was an out-of-work steelworker when hired to play Antonio. seven-year-old Staiola dazzles as one of cinema’s wonder-kids. The son is the intimate witness of the father's humiliation, his inadequacy as a provider. Every action in this film has a reaction that affects the characters and the film itself. 

                     Although the three leads were all nonactors, The Bicycle Thief's modest $133,000 budget was far larger than those of previousDe Sica's movies. De Sica used many more locations and extras—40 market vendors hired for a single scene. De Sica's movie emphasizes the urban mass, waiting for jobs and streetcars, and its mass-produced objects. 

                    Although not a comedy, The Bicycle Thief was inevitably compared to Chaplin in its content, its structure, its pathos, and its universality.The character of Ricci is better from Chaplin's Tramp, in that he has a wife and a child. The Bicycle Thieves is effective both as a topical work, which details the existence of poor and socially distraught Italians, and also works as an allegory about the human condition and need for dignity and self worth. 

                       One of the unforgettable scene in the movie comes when, in a moment of lost hope, Ricci and his son go into a small restaurant and enjoy a slice of pizza and a little nip of wine while a family feasts on huge platters of food in the background. The simplicity of such imagery, explored with such sustained craftsmanship, compels firm adoration for the film.      

                   Bicycle Thieves shows us poverty's authentic sting, the sting which cause horrible loss of dignity in each men. Bicycle Thieves is a uncompromising, brilliant work of art. 


Bicycle Thieves - Imdb


Murtaza Ali Khan said...

Fantastic Review, Arun! Bicycles Thieves is one of my all time favorite movies. The restaurant scene that you have talked about is indeed mesmerizing to watch: a rare quantum of solace for the protagonists as well as for the viewers; cinema, indeed, doesn't get any purer than it.

Please do also checkout my review of Bicycle Thieves:

Puru@ShadowsGalore said...

Have heard so much of this film. Time to see it. A great review :)

Arun Kumar said...

Murtaza Ali, thanks for your comment. Very glad to find a movie fan, who likes 'Bicycle Theives.' Keep visiting.

@Puru, Thank you. Watch the movie, its greater than any reviews.

ra said...

my words cannot describe this awesome movie...