Thursday, December 07, 2017

Vittorio De Sica: 'Ladri di biciclette' / 'Bicycle Thieves' (1948)

Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di biciclette / Bicycle Thieves (1948), sometimes called The Bicycle Thief, has a simple, powerful plot. 

In the wake of the downfall of Mussolini-style fascism and the end of the Second World War, people in Rome are trying to make ends meet. 

The spotlight turns to one family, a man, a woman, a young son and a baby. The man-husband-father finds a job, but it's one that requires a working bicycle for transportation. He takes the job, and with the help of is wife, retrieves his bike from a pawn shop. Now, said bike must be guarded carefully, because practically everyone is desperate and might steal it. 

And yet, despite precautions, the bike is stolen. This is the set-up for the film: if the bike isn't found by the next work day -- or a replacement found -- the job will be lost.

The resulting drama is surprisingly gripping, as the man's good-natured son tags along. It's a very effective structure, still used -- as in  Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's Deux jours, une nuit / Two Days, One Night (2014), starring Marion Cotillard.

Bicycle Thieves elicited (and still does) international empathy and sympathy for regular Italians, and (hopefully) for other people recovering from major trauma, too. Life is tough for these survivors -- though Italy, as one can see in this and other films of the period, is not as devastated as, say, its former Axis ally countries, Germany and Japan. 
Bicycle Thieves is rated very highly in the annals of moviemaking. To me, it distinguishes itself from, say, the novel (by Luigi Bartolini) on which it's based, because it so effectively develops the story in a way that maximizes visuals, sounds, and motion -- the art of the cinema. 

This film and several others somewhat like it are part of "Italian Neorealism," down-to-earth tales set in the immediate post-war years (and even during the war), lasting from about 1943 until about 1952. Why "Neorealism?" Because it is sort of a sequel to "Social Realism" as in writings by Émile Zola (1840-1902) and Maxim Gorky (1868-1936). As conditions improved, the desire to make or see such "blues" films largely tapered off. But they are great works of art and wonders to behold.

Today's Rune: Wholeness.  

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

It's good for us to see the importance of small items to people. To remind us that most of us are doing pretty well.