Vittorio De Sica's remarkable 1948 drama of desperation and survival in Italy's post-war depression earned a special Oscar for its affecting power. Shot in the streets and alleys of Rome, De Sica uses a real-life environment and cast non-professional actors to frame this moving drama of desperation. The impoverished Antonio's new job delivering cinema posters is threatened when a street thief steals his bicycle. Too poor to buy another, he and his son take to the streets in an impossible search for the bike. This landmark film defined the Italian Neorealist approach with its brutal portrayal of post-war life, its truthful acting, its compassion and poetic rhythm. De Sica uses the wandering pair to witness the lives of everyday folk whilst ultimately depicting a story of love and hope between father and son.
I thought I ought to watch this as I'd heard of it as a classic and don't like to miss out on such things. The film begins slowly but soon you can gauge the man's desperation, then anguish which, although hard to watch, you can't turn away from unless you have a heart of stone. It's powerful stuff. The little boy, his son, turns in a bravura performance but then so do most of the cast members.
I'm really glad I've seen it now, I strongly recommend it to you.
Of historical interest only
- The Bicycle Thieves review by Alphaville
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De Sica’s 1948 social drama is routinely regarded as a 5-star classic but surely only because it was the first example of Italian neo-realism, even to the extent of using non-professional actors. It’s hard to watch these days. Its influence on British cinema stretches from the kitchen-sink dramas of the 1960s to the unwatchable lottery-funded social dramas of today so it has a lot to answer for. For those who hanker after this sort of thing, there’s a surplus of slice-of-everyday-life dramas and documentaries on TV. We should expect something more imaginative from cinema. It’s enough to make you pine for some superhero nonsense. Ironically, such Italian films were lip-synched in post-production, making all dialogue tonally identical and destroying any semblance of realism. Truffaut rightly mocked the tradition in Day for Night. Thank goodness the French Nouvelle Vague arrived to reinvigorate European cinema.