Italian Neo realism; Pure Cinema
Ladri de Biccilette [Bicycle Thieves] (Vittorio De Sica)
Do you agree with Andre Bazin that Ladri de Biccilette is an example of ‘pure cinema’? (Bazin  p.60). To what extent is such a pure cinema possible and, in your opinion, which Italian Neo-realist film screened on the unit comes closest to it? Explain your reasoning.
This essay will address the characteristics of ‘pure cinema’ and the extent of its practical nature. It also seeks to analyse the film Ladri de Biccilette whilst exploring the traits of pure cinema in this film. The definition of pure cinema refers to a cinema where real life is projected onto the screen in way that creates the illusion of reality. The more the aspects of a film are closer to real life, the purer the cinema it will be regarded. Pure cinema does not concern itself whether the audience is bored, shocked, thrilled or satisfied, and also would not care much how the scenes are interpreted. It seeks purely to reflect what is going on in reality, without intentionally altering or cutting parts out in order to manipulate a specific set of emotions from its audience. In perfect pure cinema, there is no lighting added to the scene and things are filmed as they were perceived before the existence of the camera in the scene. The location and settings, which are the most important defining aspect of pure cinema, are real places instead of studio-based scenes, and the director does not manipulate mise-en-scene, either. The events are just the ones of ordinary issues and dialogues are simple and do not necessarily follow a good grammar. In other words, there is no exaggeration nor dramatization of the events. Using real people instead of actors, and allowing them to act and speak freely with a small amount of direction, is another characteristic of pure cinema. The position of the camera is random and the camera usually films everything in a long-take and wide angle (like looking through a window). In pure cinema, the director has not got a firm script, which he has to follow step by step. Instead he tries to be receptive to the world around him and films everything and leaves it up to the audience to draw the meaning themselves. These are the essential characteristics of pure cinema, but how many of these characteristics can be found in the film Ladri de Biccilette is what that will explored in the next paragraph.
Ladri di Biccilette (Vitoria de Sica, 1948) is one of the films that started the wave of Neo-realist films in Italy. The core target of this film, like other neo-realist films, was mainly to reflect the life of the worker, which up this point in Italian history, had been ignored in their films. The social position of the victims in the Ladri di Biccilette, in which the actors are only placed to move the story forward, is what carries the main message of the film. The actual story of the film, as Bazin believes, is not even enough to fill a paragraph of a news article. In the opening scene of the film, a crowd of unemployed men are waiting to find out that there is only one job available. All the people used in this film are normal people whose real lives were similar to the one in the film. The role of the worker was played by somebody who was working in a factory nearby, while the role of the son was played by a boy who was found in the streets of Rome and a journalist played the role of the wife. There are no studio-based scenes and all the locations are real places in Rome, which is in itself of historical value with the documenting of the landscape of Rome, post World War II. Events in the film look quite random and accidental. For example, when the worker is reporting his bicycle stolen to the police officer, another officer, who is leaving the station with a group of soldiers, suddenly calls upon the first officer. The camera moves its focus from the worker and the police officer and his colleagues,...
Bibliography: Andre Bazin (1971), what is cinema? (vol. 2), University of California Press Films
Ladri de Biccilette [Bicycle Thieves] (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) 103m
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