Bicycle Thieves (1948): Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica's Neorealistic masterpiece

A maelstrom of human emotions that paves the way for catharsis

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali

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bicycle thieves, directed by vittorio de sica, 1948 Italian Neo-realistic masterpiece
Bicycle Thieves (1948) - Original Title: Ladri di biciclette - By Vittorio De Sica
Our Rating: 10.0
IMDb Ratings: 8.4
Genre: Crime Drama
Cast Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Runtime: 93 min
ColorBlack and White

Summary: A man and his son search for a stolen bicycle vital for his job.
Bicycle Thieves is a 1948 ubiquitously acclaimed Neo-realistic film directed by Italian master movie-maker Vittorio De Sica. Semantically speaking, self-realization is a probable prelude to catharsis, but at a much higher echelon of cognition the two become virtually inseparable as attaining the former would automatically yield the latter. At this threshold of enlightenment, human spirit attains a sense of ephemeral divinity that would either drive the human crazy or would lead him to salvation. This enlightenment can seldom be attained through vicarious means. Even cinema, with its unparalleled potential to stimulate and satiate, mostly falls short of being cathartic, and only in the rarest of the rare cases does it manage to accomplish the incredible and the extraordinary. Undoubtedly, Bicycle Thieves is one such rare moment of triumph wherein cinema becomes not only the tool but also the medium for the viewer to attain eternal salvation.

the son, the movie's highly emotional climax scene, bicycle thieves, directed by vittorio de sica
Bicycle Thieves is an Italian neo-realist film by Vittorio De Sica. Italian neo-realism, a naturalistic movement in Italian cinema of the 1940s that aimed at giving cinema a new degree of realism, promoted the use of an amateur cast vis-à-vis a professionally trained one and advocated shooting at real locations instead of the custom-built sets & studios. Keeping up with the spirit of the movement, Vittorio De Sica chose a factory fitter who had brought his son along for an audition as his male lead. His lead actress was a journalist who had approached him for an interview, while the young boy was filled by a child spotted in the crowd watching the filming. 

bicycle thieves, father and the son get wet in rain, directed by vittorio de sicaBicycle Thieves tells the story of a poor worker searching the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to keep his job. Bicycle Thieves is an amalgam of contrasting human feelings of hope & despair, sacrifice & gratification, euphoria & melancholy, love & detestation, and malice & benevolence. Bicycle Thieves fulfills the true purpose of art, which is to discover the meaning of life. Bicycle Thieves brilliantly handles with utmost care and precision the tender and often painful relationship that universally exists between a father and a son. The later half of the movie presents cinema at its most vivid, vituperative and volatile culminating in one of the most impactful, melancholic and brutally humanistic finales ever filmed in cinematic history, the agony of which would keep the viewer contemplating for weeks, months, or even years. 
the flustered father gets involved in a brawl while searching for his cycle, bicycle thieves, directed by vittorio de sica
The screenplay is simplistic, thought-provoking and at times nakedly brutal, while the cinematography is so effortless and magnificently beautiful that it appears as though a soul of a man has been filmed, and its true essence has been captured and preserved. The poignancy of the background score casts such a sustained spell that the movie experience is enhanced beyond imagination. American playwright Arthur Miller called it a lyrical masterpiece as it examines openly the destructive and draconian world man has made for himself. Marlon Brando once said, "Bicycle Thieves is the perfect example of what can be done in front of the motion picture camera and is so rarely done". Academy winner, Henry Fonda was so moved by the Bicycle Thieves that he was tempted to write Vittorio De Sica a fan letter. The film is frequently on critics' and directors' lists of the best films ever made. It has captured every honor that the world of film can bestow including an Academy Honorary Award in 1950.
the father and his wife, happy at the start of the movie, directed by bicycle thieves, directed by vittorio de sica
All these accolades and the ubiquitous acclaim cannot describe the actual experience of seeing this film and becoming a part of its emotional impact. It makes the viewer laugh, cry and experience a rainbow of emotions. Bicycle Thieves has withstood the test of time for over six decades having inspired a long list of filmmakers that includes the likes of Indian Bimal Roy, Satyajit Ray and Anurag Kashyap, and Iranian Jafar Panahi, Dariush Mehrjui. Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, the epitome of Italian neo-realistic cinema, is a film for anyone and everyone. De Sica's humanistic masterpiece, Bicycles thieves is a cinematic magnum opus, which accentuates the true might of cinema, and is a must for everyone, irrespective of cast, color, creed or gender. It's an ageless cinema for people of all age groups. 
PS. Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves is Neo-realistic cinema at its absolute best. 

Note: This post is a part of our Best of the Best Blogathon 

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Bicycle Thieves Trailer

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  1. "Semantically speaking, self-realization is a probable prelude to catharsis, but at a much higher echelon of cognition the two become virtually inseparable as attaining the former would automatically yield the latter." These are the best lines in ur great review of this movie. Accolades and acclaim may not give the actual experience of watching this movie, but this review will definitely give a urge to watch "Bicycle Thieves."

    1. Thanks Arun... it's so nice of you to use the word "great" for my review. Bicycle Thieves can be imbibed at different levels and is a must watch for everyone. As I continue to delve deep into the wonderful world of cinema, I look up to zealous cineates like yourself to gain motivation. Thanks a lot for being such a great source of inspiration!!!


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