Monday, August 24, 2009

#69 The BIcycle Thief 1948

Brilliant film!

It’s the story of a man who, obviously after quite some time of unemployment, gets a job putting up posters around Rome. In order to do this job, he must have a bicycle. In the beginning of the film, we learn that the man, Antonio, does own a bike; he had sold it to buy food for this family. So, he and his wife must sell their linens in order to get the bike. Sadly, on Antonio’s first day of work, the bike is stolen. The rest of the film follows Antonio and his young son, Bruno, as they comb Rome to find the bike and, by extension, the family’s livelihood.

The actor who played Antonio Ricci, Lamberto Maggiorani, was wonderful. Within the course of two days, he goes from overjoyed to breaking down. There was one scene where Antonio had decided to take Bruno to lunch to cheer him up. Antonio resolved to let his trouble go for this one lunch, so he could enjoy it with his son. However, soon into the lunch, his fear for not seeing his bicycle again gets the better of him and he begins to worry. As he is explaining his money problems to his son, the fear written on the man’s face is obvious. The scene was very impressive, and probably could have been told through Antonio’s facial expressions without any dialogue. As the film wears on, Antonio gets closer and closer to total desperation and his breaking point. Finally, he meets his breaking point. Watching him using all his strength not to emotionally crumble in front of his son feels so real that it leaves you heartbroken, wondering how the Ricci family will go on.

The direction by Vittorio De Sica was also great. This was the first film I had seen by him. I particularly liked (and I don’t know if this was accurate or an aesthetic choice) there was always an excess of bicycles in many scenes. Either there would be hundreds for sale, or the streets of Rome would look like the second leg of a triathlon. The effect was similar to a group of survivors dying of thirst in a lifeboat; water all around, but not a drop to drink. I thought that visual choice made the story much more frustrating for the viewer and the characters. I really enjoyed watching The Bicycle Theif, and look forward to seeing other De Sica films.

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