The Bicycles Thieves (Reviewed by: Anu Manandhar)
The film ‘Bicycle Thieves’ is a 1948 Italian neo-realist movie. Directed by Vittorio De Sica and set in Italy, it portrays the life of the common people. It is based on the Italian novel of the same name by Luigi Bartolini.
Antonio Ricci is the protagonist of the story. He is a person who haunts the job lines day after day to provide for his wife and two children. He is the only hope for his family of four to survive in post war Rome. Suddenly his name is called for a well-paying city job. The only catch is that he needs a bicycle for the job, and he has just pawned his bicycle in order to feed his family. Thus begins `Bicycle Thieves’, Vittorio de Sica’s gritty study in realism. His wife Maria trades her dowry, maybe her only gift from her parents at the time of her wedding to get the bicycle back. He is returning home when Maria pays unnecessary money to a fortune teller for her fortune telling.
He gets a good job of pasting film posters around Rome. However, his bicycle is stolen on his first day on the job. He chases the bicycle thief (maybe himself in dire need of work) but cannot catch him. He even goes to the police but they also cannot do much. In order to keep the job, he and his young son walk around Rome, desperate to find the thief, and more importantly, the bicycle before his next day of work.
Antonio along with his son and friends search Piazza Vittorio and Porta Portese where they find stalls selling countless bicycles and parts resembling his own. They falsely accuse a merchant of possessing the stolen bike as well. Antonio and Bruno believe they have found the thief trying to pawn the bike to an old man, and they chase him but he manages to get away. Later, they see the old man and pursue him into a church, where they accuse him of knowing where the thief resides. However the old man manages to slip away.
Later he encounters the thief and chases him into a house. Antonio takes the thief outside but the thief pretends to be seriously ill. The neighbours accuse Antonio of torturing him. Bruno slips off to fetch a policeman. The policeman searches the boy’s apartment unsuccessfully for the bicycle, and tells Antonio that his case is weak; he did not catch the thief red-handed, nor did he get the names of any witnesses. Antonio gives up and walks away in despair.
Then only for the sake of his job he tries to steal a bike. However, he is caught by a crowd of angry men who slap and humiliate him in front of his son. The bicycle’s owner sees how upset Bruno is and mercifully denies pressing charges. In this small but very effective scene Antonio becomes a child and Bruno his father. They exchange their roles. Bruno consoles his father and then the movie abruptly ends. Viewers really want to see a happy ending but it is not portrayed. This highlights the theme of the movie; the realism of life.
Vittorio de Sica chose non-actors to portray the characters in the film, favoring a further realistic vision by casting amateurs. The result is remarkable, because the pain and emotions conveyed are so true. The relationship between father and son is also compelling and endearing, in that for the most part, Ricci treats his son as an equal, letting him in on his innermost thoughts and fears, until the end, when a particular event causes him to be ashamed, and the roles become defined once again. `Bicycle Thieves’ has been a critical favorite for decades, and for good reason. It is a must-see film for everyone. It helps people to understand life and to take it how it comes, to never give up but to always walk on the right path.