Currently in the throes of economic upheaval, or presently recovering, people are considering their financial situations more closely in the wake of what is now being called the “Great Recession” by many Americans. Movies are rarely able to capture this sense of anxiety, and the keen uncertainty about where the next paycheck will arrive. However, Vittorio De Sica does this masterfully with one of his masterpiece works, The Bicycle Thief.
The Bicycle Thief wasreleased in 1948 in post-war Italy to a public all too aware of how bleak life was after such a global conflict, and reflected, in a subtle style, the hopeless paths we walk at times when faced with real adversity. Viewers should be able to easily identify with this story. A father, Antonio Ricci, is struggling to find work in Rome and maintain a livelihood to support his family. He does all this while simultaneously trying to raise his son, Bruno, to be a morally upstanding citizen, but poverty complicates things for him.
The gut wrenching begins when Antonio’s bicycle is stolen while he is hanging posters his first day on the job. Without the bicycle, which is vital to his work, his family, like so many others, will suffer and starve. The film follows father and son on their dogged quest to recover that which was stolen. While navigating the twists and turns of Roman alleys, ghettos, and searching everywhere for the culprit; a needle in a haystack if ever there was one, Antonio gradually succumbs to desperation.
This film resonates so perfectly with the economic trials that face Americans today that it is almost eerie. The Bicycle Thief reaches into the past for proof that people have gone through this before. It has a stark, lingering, visual style that puts you in the character’s well-worn shoes, and rumpled hat. Bruno, Antonio’s son, makes the film all the more emotional because of that very loyalty in his father. He stays right alongside his father through all that they experience. Too young to know how hard life truly is, Bruno believes, “Dad will fix things.” It just makes the film all the more heartbreaking and beautiful. It stands as a timeless testament to humanity and our constant struggle.
If you would like to see the Bicycle Thief, it plays in the Student Center Cinema 23-24 February at 7:30 p.m., Saturday 25 February at 5 & 8 p.m., and Sunday 26 February at 2 & 5 p.m.
Article by James Burns