Bicycle Thieves, also known as The Bicycle Thief, is a 1948 Italian “neorealist” film directed by Vittorio De Sica. The film won an honorary Academy Award in 1950. It was also very quickly recognized as a significant achievement in film by a variety of publications and critics. Today, it continues to be recognized as one of the greatest films of all time (e.g. it placed 6th on “Sight and Sound’s” director’s poll in 2002) and has even loosely inspired a number of other films. So does this story of a desperate man in desperate times stand the test of time and rise to the level of a classic?
Should this film be considered a classic? Yes, it should. The film has an emotional punch that pulls you in from the very first frame and does not let go long after the credits have rolled. The setting of the film, in post World War Two Rome, captures the hardships of every day life and offers a poignant picture of the difficulties for many people during that time. For example, the film’s protagonist, Antonio, is forced to essentially trade in a set of sheets to the government in order to buy a used bicycle from the government just so that he can keep a job that requires the bicycle. When the bike is stolen, he is effectively dooming his family to a life of poverty and spends the rest of the film scouring Rome to find it. The film really makes you feel the pain of Antonio as he struggles to find the bike. The actor (Lamberto Maggiorani) does a superb job of showing the weight of the situation in everything from his facial expressions, to his gait, to the way he clenches his fist. This is definitely one of the most engaging films I have seen on this list because the character feel truly real.
Would I own this film? Probably not. This is one of those films that once you have seen it, it is impossible to forget. It is definitely one that deserves a wide audience though. This film works so well because it activates so many different emotional responses. I could identify with Anontio as a husband, parent, and struggling worker. When he was angry, so was I. When he was sad, so was I. This film is a wonderfully emotive experience and even though I wouldn’t own it, I would very highly recommend it to anyone.