Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Bicycle Thieves Steal Our Hearts
Posted by Courtney Small
Bicycle Thieves (aka The Bicycle Thief)
When looking back on the summer of 2011, I am fairly certain that the film I saw which stood out the most will not involve people with extraordinary powers. Nor will it feature wild bridesmaids or groomsmen nursing hangovers. Instead the film that I will fondly reflect on will be a simple little film about a man looking for his bicycle.
Set in post-World War II Rome, director Vittorio De Sica’s film Bicycle Thieves explorers the lengths to which one man will go to in order to provide for his family. After struggling to find work, Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) finally lands a job putting up posters around town. The only catch is that the job requires all workers to have a bicycle. With no money Antonio and his wife Maria (Lianella Carell) are forced to pawn their best sheets just to afford a bicycle. A new bicycle in hand and a the job secured, things finally seem to be turning around for Antonio. However, when his bicycle is stolen on the first day of work, Antonio, and his young son Bruno (Enzo Staiola), go on a quest to find the thief.
There are some films that just instantly strike a cord with you and Bicycle Thieves was one of those films for me. I loved how well Vitorio De Sica conveys what life was like right after the war. You get a real sense of the poverty that swept through Italy, and most of the world, at that time. The bicycle represents Antonio’s whole life; his tenuous relationship with wife and his ability to feed his child all hinge on his ability to successfully locate it. It is this type of pressure that forces him into a dark and desperate place.
Despite the hardship that Antonio must endure, Bicycle Thieves is not all grim sadness. In fact the film has a surprising amount of humour woven within it. Many of these moments come thanks to great work that Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola provide as Antonio and Bruno respectively. The disconnect between Antonio and Bruno lead to some great comedic moments, such as when Antonio does not realize that his son has fallen in the mud, or when Bruno stops for a washroom break mid-chase.
Vittorio De Sica succeeds in creating a film that both entertains as well as connects with viewers on an emotional level. Not only has the film found a spot on my personal list of all-time favourites, but it is a film that I can confidently call a masterpiece. It is very rare that a film, which features rather depressing subject matter, could have me smiling throughout. However that is exactly what Bicycle Thieves does, it is a fantastic film that really does live up to the international praise it has received.
The Bicycle Thieves is part of our "The Must See List" series.