Monday, October 11, 2010

The Bicycle Thief

Bicycle Thieves is a more accurate translation of this film's original Italian title, and it has been rereleased here that way. But I think The Bicycle Thief is actually a better title, absolute fact be damned. If you want one movie to sum up the Italian neorealism movement, this is probably it. It takes place in post-war Rome and depicts the hardships of making a living there, using real people instead of professional actors in most of the lead roles. It's supposed to be as harshly real as possible, and in that way it's mostly effective. I didn't love watching every minute of it, but there are enough scenes of genuine power and emotion to make it definitely worth sitting through some of the more mundane ones.

So Antonio is a simple laborer, who gets the opportunity of a new job putting up posters after he and his wife are able to sell their sheets to afford his bicycle back so he can transport himself. Unfortunately it gets stolen on his first day, and neither his employers nor the police can really help. So he sets off to look for it himself, accompanied by his young son. After not finding it where it would likely be chopped off and the parts sold, he grows increasingly more desperate trying to track down the man who stole it, interrupting church services and getting hounded by protective neighbors. You feel his frustration mount as he realizes how unlikely it is he'll ever get the bike back, but the movie really hits its hardest when the kid is involved. Seeing how happy he is just to get to eat some real food from a restaurant, and his sadness when his father is unable to guarantee the security of their future is heart wrenching. It all leads to the devastating final scene, which speaks volumes about the difficulty of the situation without having to say a word. Not easy to watch, but ultimately worth doing so.

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