The 1948 Italian classic The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves) is considered by many to be one of the best films ever made period, let alone one of the greatest Italian films of all time. Directed by Vittorio De Sica, the film tells the story of an impoverished family living in post-World War II Rome. Antonio, the father, gets a job that requires the use of a bicycle. When the bicycle gets stolen, Antonio and his son Bruno search throughout the Eternal City trying to find the bike and restore his job and dignity.
The film is Italian neorealism at its most stark, tangible, and in your face. As stated on The Criterion Collection website:
“The neorealist movement began in Italy at the end of World War II as an urgent response to the political turmoil and desperate economic conditions afflicting the country. Directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti took up cameras to focus on lower-class characters and their concerns, using nonprofessional actors, outdoor shooting, (necessarily) very small budgets, and a realist aesthetic.”
Among the film’s many kudos, The Bicycle Thief also won a Special Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1949 “as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1949.”
Frankly, I find the film to be depressing as all get out, but I guess that’s the point. It shows the ruinous toll that war and fascism wreaked on the people of Italy. It’s an important film and definitely one worth checking out and thinking about.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I watched The Bicycle Thief on TCM.