Quick Thoughts: Bicycle Thieves
A man’s bike, and so job, his ability to feed his family, is stolen from him, leaving him no other option but to go looking for it.
To say that Bicycle Thieves is a great film would be an understatement. Articulating exactly how good this film is would take a lot of space, so, to keep things short, let’s just say that Bicycle Thieves holds one of the most simplistic yet expressive and emotionally investing narratives of all time. As such, this film is not only a monumental filmic experience, but a rich lesson in story telling. An interesting detail I want to touch on here is a significant, but easily overlooked, element of the film: transitions between locations. The reason why this film is so immersive, so poignant and powerful, is all to do with de Sica’s ability to sustain a highly emotional atmosphere. Throughout Bicycle Thieves he does this with an appeal to what have later been labelled ‘Italian Neorealist conventions’. This is a concept which encapsulates the grounded and visceral tone of the film, one that is steeped in the everyday struggles of the average person in post-WWII Rome. Because the stakes of Antonio’s family life are so high and hung so precariously throughout his narrative, it’s clear that his story holds an intrinsic emotional draw. That is to say, there’s an inherent ground of sympathy and understanding belying the space between audience and film. We see this projected scene-to-scene with Antonio’s grinding struggle to find his bike with the understood subtext that this ‘bike’ means so much more than two wheels and a seat. This bike is Antonio’s manhood, his ability to provide for his family, to stand up as a role model to his son and define to him what it is to be an adult and father. And such is the source of all pain we feel in seeing Antonio’s strife. However, what really stands out to me about this film is that it falls in a class of ‘road movie’. This means the film is all about a physical search, a literal journey, from a here to there. In such, shots of characters transitioning from an A to B to C are in the very fabric of this kind of the film. de Sica’s portrayal of this rather disinteresting movement however is constantly. constantly, awe-inspiring, due to his play with light, location and weather. It’s with these elements that he manipulates the realist foundations of the film as an artistic means of creating mood and atmosphere, of revealing the internal feelings of characters travelling from one dire event of personal significance to another.
It is then the level of direction in this film that makes Bicycle Thieves a truly great film and phenomenal cinematic experience…
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