The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

1948

I first watched The Bicycle Thieves while at University during my module on Film History. It certainly made more sense to me 8 years ago when watched under those circumstances. But then I guess back then we were looking at the film through the context of it being an example of the Italian Neorealism movement rather than as a simple viewing experience.  Like Jonathan Rosenbaum says “this masterpiece […] is one of the key works of Italian Neorealism.” (227, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) and that was how I was initially introduced to The Bicycle Thieves.

The Bicycle ThiefRe-watching the film now I found it rather difficult to remain engaged. It’s a very loose narrative for a feature film – one that would possibly be more suited to a short film. And I found the ending entirely unsatisfying – after all that he doesn’t even find the blasted bicycle!

Either the subtitles weren’t consistent or it takes a lot of words to form a sentence in Italian. The good thing about watching foreign films as I have said before is that is does require my full concentration, even more so with an Italian film over say a French or German film. As befitting the Italian culture there is a lot of noise and gesticulating. A lot the time the background noise was just that – noise – I didn’t gain any additional understanding in terms of the narrative.

“The Bicycle Thief contains what is possibly the greatest depiction of a relationship between a father and son in the history of cinema, full of subtle fluctuations and evolving gradations between the two characters in terms o respect and trust, and it’s an awesome heartbreaker.” (227) The relationship between the father and his son is definitely the most interesting aspect to the film. Watching the fluctuations between them is intriguing and what really held my attention. The young son, Bruno, is such a solemn little character with an extremely expressive face. Enzo Staiola gives a noteworthy performance for such a young actor.

While for the most part I agree with Rosenbaum’s review I don’t think it is a heartbreaking film but then that could be due to the fact that I was somewhat disengaged when watching the film.  was pleasurable to watch and it was certainly informative when looking at Italian Neorealism while doing my degree but ultimately the narrative left me frustrated; I’m therefore not likely to watch it again.

 

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