A portrayal of a working class men struggling in this post war so-called world –
An unemployed man Antonio Ricci is given a job putting up posters, however a condition of his employment is that he needs a bicycle, eventually he manages to buy one from a pawn shop, but on his first day at work it’s stolen and thus the man and his young son begin a desperate search through the back streets of Rome to find the missing bicycle.
Director Vittorio De Sica chose to film in the crowded streets of Rome and use non professional actors to capture the mood appropriately. This neo-realist approach works almost as a filmed documentary of Italy and the existence forced upon it’s citizens. When Antonio loses his bicycle he loses so much more and his desperate search in the overcrowded streets is one of cinema’s most emotional exploration of a man trying to capture his dignity that was taken from him. The bicycle was his job, his sense of purpose and it ensured a good livelihood for his family.
This film may not be for everyone, but anyone who appreciates film will understand its greatness and the realness of life along the story. There are allusions to the class struggle, but the film falls short of directly calling for a radical social change, instead portraying the working class of Italy as hopelessly divided by its own poverty, unemployment and greed . While that in itself may suggest De Sica’s desire for a proletariat united against injustices posed by the system, it’s still a comment the film never makes in a literal form – if it’s there, it’s hidden away somewhere in the narrative for the audience to decipher themselves. In that respect Bicycle Thieves quite clearly differs from many other Italian neo-realist movies, because it does not directly criticise the capitalist system, instead preferring to remain ambiguous and leaving the audience to arrive at their own conclusions about the fate of Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), his beloved son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) and of Italian society in general.
In a way it’s probably for the best that De Sica has chosen to portray the message of the film in an ambiguous light instead of patronising his audience with lectures, since it enables him to portray social injustice without running the risk of alienating his audience.
Astonishing, that might be the best word to describe this film. A beauty in it’s way, human way. Highly Recommended, worth the accolades.