Bicycle Thieves ★★★★

Included In Lists:
Criterion Collection - #374
Sight and Sound Top 250 - #33

Review In A Nutshell:

Neo-Realist Italian films are not my forte, I have only seen a couple and none of them have blown me away. I was starting to think that maybe these kinds of films aren't for me, but seeing Bicycle Thieves changed all that. I may not consider the film the masterpiece that the majority claim it to be, but it certainly is a powerful film and the best I have seen so far from The Golden Age of Italian Cinema.

There is nothing simpler than the plot of Bicycle Thieves, a man and his son searches and tries to claim back his stolen bicycle in order for him to continue working. The film makes up for this basic plot by placing heavy metaphors that enriches both the film's characters and setting. Whilst searching for the bicycle, we are treated to the poor living conditions of the many citizens that were affected the 2nd World War; families selling their linens in order to make money, relying on job opportunities to come to them rather than making one of their own, relying on spiritual guidance in order to predict the outcome of their problems, and the lack of morality in individuals in order to make ends meet are some of the few examples that this film was able to demonstrate that speaks genuinely to the conditions of that time. Director Vittorio De Sica could have simply added those elements in, in order to push the plot forward but he wanted the film to be much more than that, this film serves as a time capsule of a time that many have forgotten and letting the fortunate people see that no matter what your problem is now, there were people suffering much worse back then, as losing something as simple as a bicycle would define your entire life.

The film strives for authenticity and I truly admire that, but there are one or two scenes in this film, which I personally felt could have improved in its execution. I wanted these scenes to contain a bit more drama than what was served on screen as it would have allowed me to further gain a much deeper connection with its characters. These scenes were only found around the film's first half, as once it hits halfway, it started to roll faster and the impact was much larger.

The decision for De Sica and his cinematographer Carlo Montuori to shoot in the streets of Rome allows the film to capture that authenticity that a film set simply couldn't do. The film was created during a time where Italy was still suffering from the catastrophe that is World War 2, and the director has done a marvellous job in letting its audience feel immersed in the environment, seeing and feeling the crumbs that were left by the bombing of Rome. Showing the film in black and white amplifies the pain and suffering of both the low-working class citizens and the city itself, and if I saw this film during the time of its release, it would have been difficult for me to ever think that the city and its people would ever thrive like they used to.

Alessandro Cicognini's score also captures the travesty of the film's setting, as many of its segments comes out sorrowful and lacking in any sense of hope, while some parts, mainly at the start of the film, show a sense of optimism that parallels with our protagonist's feelings. Cicognini's work may not be regarded as one of cinema's greatest best, at least for me, but it was powerful enough for me to gain an understanding of the film's atmosphere and the feelings of its characters.

De Sica's choice of utilizing non-professional actors was a smart decision as instead of having individuals pretend to be affected by the conditions of that environment, why not simply take men and women who are a living embodiment of post-World War 2 Rome. Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola who plays the film's two central roles, performed wonderfully. They avoided adding any sense of melodrama in their performances and keeping the chemistry between the two of them feel authentic.

Very few films could capture the authentic emotions and atmosphere that Bicycle Thieves was able to deliver; Vittoria De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves is a treasure.

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