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Bicycle Thieves

Review Written by: Chris Burns
Film: A+
What the MPAA Rating should be: PG (for adult themes)

Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
Written by: Cesare Zavattini
Based on the book by: Luigi Bartolini
Produced by: Giuseppe Amato
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda
Studio: Produzioni De Sica

Throughout the '40s, '50s and early '60s Italian neo-realism was a strongpoint of European cinema. Few films came close to capturing the authenticity and bleak visual delight of which Italian neo-realism offered. The Bicycle Thief is a primary example of Italian neo-realism and defines the genre as a whole.

The Bicycle Thief (or to some The Bicycle Thieves) depicts the story of a father and son's fascinating relationship. The story revolves around a poor man named Antonio Ricci who after being unemployed for two years gains a job. Of course he is ecstatic about becoming employed, yet he needs a bike as this is primary for his job of putting up posters. So he pawns some essential possessions in return for the bike, hoping to pay back for them with the job. Alas, on his first day his bike gets stolen; from here on the film follows the Antonio and his son's search for the bike.

The Bicycle Thief is certainly not an upbeat film; rather it is a depressing slice of honest realism of how cruel the world really is. The film studies many aspects of human behaviour during desperate situations. On the surface The Bicycle Thief is a simple story, but once you start looking at the film closer you will notice an important social-commentary, a truly absorbing subtext and a sincere study of emotions.

It is amazing just how well The Bicycle Thief has developed over time, still remaining poignant, affecting and heart-breaking in its outlook on society and life. The film asks questions of morals, such as "does Antonio care more about his job than his family?" or "does he care about his job for his family?"

The film is so enthralling and challenging that it is open to different interpretations from the moralistic point of view. The film's power has not lost its force and ability to bring even the most strong of viewers to let out their pity for the characters we know only too well. It is sad when you realise that there are millions of people today in the same situation, trying so hard to make a decent living yet failing miserably.

Another element which makes the film so professional and startlingly realistic is due to how the entire cast is based around almost all unprofessional actors and actresses. The acting is very direct and it is impossible not to pity the characters that you have grown to love throughout the film. The acting from the child is truly magnificent and is without-a-doubt one of the finest child performances of all-time, the child slides himself inside his role capturing the loss of innocence and deprivation he is growing-up around. The film's poetic and angry script echoes the protagonists' emotions and centres itself around them with a blissful ease.

Director Vittorio De Sica constantly lays bare the lives of the everyday Italian from the film's period, making it a relatable film for the people the genuine lives that have been filmed. Vittorio De Sica is a master at his art, making films about the people and for the people. His messages on Italian life on politics still echo their force today.

The consistent element of class-struggle is endorsed into the film's fluid narrative. The haunting and charming scene in the pizzeria shows the difference in classes and the Antonio's devotion to his son, possibly my favourite scene in the entire film. It is heartbreaking to see how money is always on Antonio's mind. He realises whenever he uses his money he is taking a risk and can barely afford the "luxury" of eating out, yet he wants his son to be happy. There are so many questions the film asks its viewers and so it deserves to be analysed. I can honestly say if you do not feel the slightest impact of The Bicycle Thief then I would question if you are truly human!

The film captures the gritty feel of the streets of Rome through a stark and dirty vision. The camera sympathetically and delicately lays bare the lifestyle of the poverty-stricken citizens. It embroils all the elements of life in the city, fluidly capturing the sadness in the lives of people who have very little in life. When looked at today, The Bicycle Thief is a film that makes the viewer realise just how lucky you are and how people take modern lifestyle essentials for granted. The eloquently effective score captures the environment and character tones with an elegant aura, beautifully accompanying the scenes.

The Bicycle Thief remains one of the most thoughtfully intelligent social-commentaries of all-time, offering countless revisits. Cinematic perfection, celluloid is rarely as perfect as The Bicycle Thief.

Two lost souls searching in the rain for Bicycle Thieves.
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