Movie #127 The Bicycle Thief
(1948, Italy, d. Vittoria de Sica)
Containing arguably one of the greatest child performances of all time, The Bicycle Thief is a very realistic portrayal of a man’s search for a lost possession during a time of economic recession. The film’s greatest strength lies in its anonymity of style and character. We are not watching a hero who will struggle against all odds to come out victorious. We are not watching a technically complex film that draws attention to its style. Rather we are watching an Everyman in search of his bike. Long takes create the sensation of a heightened duration in this film and often the film takes us places where we expect an incident to occur but in the end, nothing really happens. A prime example of the Italian ne0-realist movement, this film not only utilizes film as a more realistic “window” to reality, but also serves as a commentary on government and public institutions in Italy at the end of WWII. But only one weakness of the film comes to mind: Neo-realism prides itself on not drawing attention to any part of the frame but rather letting it exist for what it is. And while The Bicycle Thief accomplishes this a lot, it does use its music cues as aural attention markers and I thought that should be considered cheating for the most part. Finally, the last shot of the film is also a beautiful and haunting metaphor for the Everyman’s plight through everyday life. As our protagonist gets swallowed up in the crowd, we cannot help but associate his problems with those of his peers. Perhaps everyone is going through a similar struggle. Perhaps.