Friday, December 9, 2011

The Bicycle Thief: Italian Neorealism


    The 1948 film The Bicycle Thief follows the story of Bruno Ricci and his father Antonio Ricci as they face the economic hardships of their time.  Beginning with the joyous and momentous fortune of Antonio receiving a job as a poster man, strife easily begins to trickle into the story as the first conflict emerges: he cannot have this job unless he has a bike.  Young Bruno Ricci is extremely proud of both his father and his father's new bike, but when the terrible occurrence of the bike being stolen occurs, there is no way for Bruno or his father to let go of what has happened.  Bruno has the terribly jarring realization that men are not completely dignified beings as he witnesses his father contributing to the web of thievery by committing the very act that he had shunned all throughout the movie: stealing a bike.  All throughout this film there are moments that truly reflect the Italian Neorealism era. 


    The whole film revolves around the feeling of desperation.  This feeling is caused by the setting.  As stated in the book Film Art: "...the post-war period saw several filmmakers beginning to work with the goal of revealing contemporary social conditions." In the beginning of the film we see Antonio Ricci in a crowd of frenzied unemployed men who are all extremely eager to get a job.  Upon the realization that Antonio is the only one qualified for the one available job, the men begin to become nasty and rash.  This reflects the turmoil of Italian society during this time.


    Neorealism takes a stab at the harsh realities of life in a terrible economic time.  This is showcased in how the movie begins and how it ends.  In the beginning of the film we see Antonio's bike get stolen.  All throughout the film we see him trying to get his bike back.  Because we, the audience, go through this whole journey with him, we gradually feel more and more perturbed and angered by whoever is the man who stole Antonio's bike. In the end when we see Antonio get so low as to stealing a bike himself, we are overcome with the same amount of shock and horror as Bruno: how on earth could Antonio be doing this? Once again, Italian Neorealism tackles these social issues and implements them in a realistically sad matter. 


    The acting of the characters Bruno and Antonio seems very authentic and real.  This is explained in Film Art: Although Neorealistic films often featured famous stage or film actors, nonactors were also recruited for their realistic looks and behaviors. For the adult "star" of Bicycle Thieves, De Sica chose a factory worker: The way he moved, the way he sat down, his gestures with those hands of a working man and not of an actor... everything about him was perfect." This worked out perfectly for this film because it allows us to connect into the moments of highest emotion so easily.  For instance, there is a scene of Bruno checking out the bike and making the realization that their is a dent in one of the petals.  The way Bruno goes about checking the bike seems very realistic and very natural.  This showcases a method implemented and effectively utilized during the Italian Neorealism era.


    All in all, it is quite evident that The Bicycle Thief is a great example of Italian Neorealism.