‘Bicycle thieves’ is a 1948 Italian film directed by Vittorio De Sica. The film is of about 1 hour 30 minutes and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Italian Neorealism (also known as Golden Age of Italian Cinema, is a national film movement characterized by stories set amongst the poor and the working class, filmed on location, using non professional actors. It focuses on real life economic conditions of Italy post World War II, representing changes in the Italian Psyche and conditions of everyday life such as, the poverty, oppression, desperation and injustice.)
The story of this film is easily told through real locations. The director De Sica has refrain himself to use any studio locations so as to depict the post WWII view in Italy. The film stars Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci, who by the way, was not a professional actor, a man who joins a hopeless queue every morning looking for a job. One day, Ricci gets a job of pasting the cinema advertisements around the city on different walls which needs a bicycle.
The actress playing the role of Ricci’s wife believes in a Wise Woman, who predicts that her husband would get a job. So, to thank her, Maria, his wife goes to her place. However, Ricci advised her not to indulge in this kind of thing.
Now, on the very first day of his work, while pasting posters on the wall, he loses his bicycle. Noticing, his bicycle being stolen, he runs behind the thief but couldn’t reach him. The film focuses on the poverty, oppression and bad economic conditions of the country when having a bicycle for a job was the necessary vehicle to carry out his work especially for the job he took for the living. So, the earning of the character depends totally on the bicycle through which he can feed his family.
The family of Antonio Ricci consists of his wife Maria, his elder son Bruno, his infant son and the Antonio himself. The character of Bruno has been depicted like that of an innocent yet slightly clever child who accompanies his father in search of the bicycle.
One of the scene aforementioned, can be described as a humorous, when water is pouring everywhere and Ricci and Bruno runs towards a shelter in order to save themselves from the rain, Bruno however, follows his father and falls on the ground. Antonio, unknowingly, stands with other people with his son.
The director of this film was successful in depicting the Italian Neorealism in Bicycle Thieves. In the film, eventually, Ricci spots the thief and pursues him into a brothel. The cop reaches the spot, but Ricci couldn’t do anything because of no witness that can be used to prove that his bicycle being stolen.
At the famous closing sequence of the film, Ricci is tempted to steal a bicycle himself, continuing the cycle of theft and poverty.
The character of Antonio Ricci is entirely driven by the class and economic need during the post World War II. Simple in construction and profoundly rich in human insight, ‘Bicycle Thieves’ embodies the greatest strengths of the Italian neorealist movement: emotional clarity, social rectitude, and brutal honesty.
The main characters of this film are showcased with brutal honesty and the righteousness in their attitude towards the life. However, the desperation of Ricci owning a bicycle leads to steal a bicycle for which he get caught up and beaten up by the people.
The director has shown the isolation and loneliness of the little man in this complex social world that is ironically blessed with institutions to comfort and protect mankind. Although he has again set his drama in the streets of Rome and has populated it densely with significant contemporary types.
Every incident, every detail of the frantic and futile hunt is a taut and exciting adventure, in which hope is balanced against despair. Every movement of every person in it, every expression on every face is a striking illumination of some implicit passion or mood.
The music has been aptly written and used to raise the emotional potential—that accompanies the father and son, the music of rolling bicycles and the "morning music," full of freshness and bells.
Also, this film had a great impact all over the world and especially on filmmakers of parallel cinema in India, Satyajit Ray's 'Apu Trilogy' and Bimal Roy's 'Do Bigha Zamin' was highly influenced by this film because of its neo-realism concept.
It’s a masterpiece film that every cinema lover should watch.