Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bicycle Thieves Steal Our Hearts

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.


  1. I once said that the Pursuit of Happyness was an American version of this movie but that gets the ending wrong. That was especially ironic upon finding out that it was directed by an Italian as well.

    Agreed with how great this movie is.

  2. I saw this film early last year but in a very poor print of it. Still, it's story and the power of what it was trying to say was devastating. I was in tears by the end of it. Then again, who wasn't?

    Did you hear about some idiot scientists naming The Champ as the saddest film ever made? They obviously haven't seen this film.

  3. i keep forgetting that i've seen this movie. twice. it's one that i told myself to watch for so long that my brain just repeats the same mantra every time it gets mentioned.

    i thoroughly enjoyed it myself. charming, sad, funny and most of all exceptionally well made.

  4. I watched this film at a personal low ebb, and it struck me very hard. This is another in a list of films I am glad to have watched, but can't imagine wanting to watch again.

  5. I need to see this film - don't remember seeing it at the Criterion sale.

    Don't want to read further than the first paragraph. I'll watch on just the title of the article alone.

  6. @Mike – I can totally see the Pursuit of Happyness comparisons. I felt that this film was far more subtle than Smith’s film. I found that Happyness keep beating the audience over the head with the symbolism of every moment.

    @thevoid – I have not seen The Champ yet so I cannot compare the two. I am not sure if I would consider this film to be the saddest film ever made, it would be up there, but at the top? I may need to think on that a bit…

    @Toby – I have that same problem with certain 80’s comedies. I am convinced that I have not seen a particular film before so I go out of my way to watch it, only to realize that I had already seen the film a few times before.

    @Movie Guy Steve – While I could easily watch this films again and again, it is not a film that you want to watch during a low ebb.

    @Duke – Although I left out any “spoilers” I can understand wanting to see the film first before reading the reviews. I usually do the same thing myself.

  7. It is a great film - and it does stick with you. Moreso when you dwell back on it and consider the profound points it makes about the difficult choices people have to make. Poverty - and in some cases the ignorance of it - will eventually find a way to break out (whether through stealing a bike to support ones family...) and let people know whats going on (by stealing posessions for greed...). See the London Riots ...


  8. @Simon - This film is still very timely when you look at it in comparison to The London Riots. Thought I wonder how much of the riots had to do with poverty and how much of it had to do with the selfish nature of today's youth.

  9. I saw this film several years ago when it was still being translated as "The Bicycle Thief." Even then I thought the title made the ending kind of obvious (as to who "the bicycle thief" was referring to.) Now with the new translation it seems even more so. I wish I hadn't figured what was going to happen at the end because then the movie would have affected me a lot more.


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