The Bicycle Thief
The Bicycle Thief is probably the best known and most highly praised of all the Italian Neorealist films of its era. The films of the Neorealist movement were characterized by several primary ideas. Instead of featuring stories focusing on glitz and glamour, Neorealist films focused on the poor and the working class. Instead of building and fabricating complex sets to film on, they did their filming on location. And instead of trying to get the most well known, highly paid celebrity actors, they frequently used people that weren’t even professional actors and had no training for their starring roles. This all helped lend a sense of realism and weight to the stories.
The Bicycle Thief takes place in Rome during a period where the unemployment rate was high and men struggled to support their families. In the film, an unemployed man, Antonio Ricci (played by factory worker Lamberto Maggiorani, in true Neorealist fashion), catches a lucky break and manages to land a job pasting up posters around the city. The only catch is that he needs to own a bike. Being that he already sold his bike to a pawn shop for much needed cash, his wife sells all the bed sheets from their home to scrounge up just enough money to get the bike back. There’s a great shot in this scene where we see an enormous shelf containing hundreds of sheets; a subtle way of showing us that the protagonist is just one of many in similar desperate situations.
Antonio gets his bike back and starts his job the next day. Unfortunately, just like in real life, things usually don’t go as planned. While he’s gluing up a poster, a hoodlum dashes by, snags his bike, and takes off with it. Antonio desperately chases after the man, knowing that if he loses his bike, he loses his job, and his family will starve. Try as he might however, the thief manages to escape. He reports the theft to the police, confident that they can help him recover it, but they basically tell him to go look for it...
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