The Bicycle Thief

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Another fine example of neorealism is The Bicycle Thief (1948), written by Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica. The narrative of this film unfolds in post-W.W.II times. The film is a portrait of the post-war Italian disadvantaged class (the majority) in their search for self-respect. It is a time of struggle for the Italian people, amplified by a shortage of employment and lack of social services. In the first scenes of the film, these conditions are evident as Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorami) meets his spouse Maria (Lianalla Carell) on his way back home. We see the "men" arguing at the employment "office" as the "women" argue about the shortage of water. Although the director's pessimism drives the plot, it is ultimately the clash with human optimism which gives this film affective power.

Antonio's new job can bring his family new hopes and happiness, which are drastically destroyed when his bicycle is stolen. The banal circumstances are brought to life when it is realized that a modest bicycle is such an important element in determining the future survival of the Ricci family. Human optimism is there, beginning with Antonio's excitement when he gets his bike from the pawn shop, and the next morning when the family joyfully interacts before setting out for work. These scenes contain the promises that a modest job can bring and the dignity and pride of being able to once more function within Italian society. The embodiment of this self-respect is shown when Antonio and his son Bruno (Enzo Staicca) both smile at Maria as they leave home.

Self-respect and all the related values such as pride, dignity, modesty and honor are very important in Italian society. Witness Bruno, whom at a young age, works full time at a gas station. Bruno's contributions to the Ricci family make him a "man" and strip him of his innocence. Being able to work is an optimistic endeavor which Bruno wholeheartedly engages in.

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