Thankful for World Cinema- Bicycle Thieves

When looking for a theme in which to select films from the start of November until Thanksgiving being literal is not the best option. Films centered around Thanksgiving tend to be overly obsessed with dysfunctional families. So in thinking about the nature of the day which was initially a celebration of survival in the New World, I thought why not focus on foreign films.

Bicycle Thieves

Enzo Staiola and Lamberto Maggiorani in Bicycle Thieves (Produzioni de Sica)

Firstly, it must be said that as simple as it is a test of the greatness of Bicycle Thieves is how much can and has been written about it. This piece, however, is meant as an introductory piece to the film in hopes that more people will discover this cinematic gem. This is not an in depth examination or an in depth film theory piece. For that kind of examination I could not do better than to direct you to the companion booklet that comes with the Criterion release.

 Bicycle Thieves is all that is good about Neorealist cinema in one tidy story. It is naturalistic acting, practical locations and a simple yet utterly compelling storyline.

The film sets up its dramatic problem instantly. Antonio is assigned work but needs a bicycle or he won’t get the job. He does manage to get it out of hock but his troubles aren’t nearly over.

What is most effective in this film is that in following Antonio on his quest we become fully immersed in it. We identify with him because we know the significance of the bike and why he needs it.

What’s more is that we can see the extremes he goes through and can relate when he is pushed past his breaking point. In his failing we can see why he has reached his last resort.

In this way Bicycle Thieves becomes the perfect tragedy because our protagonist can see how far he fell and can wonder what he could’ve been thinking without ruining his entire life.

The tragedy is ultimately left for us to examine. As we know there are many more stories like it playing themselves out everyday. By making the tale small and not grandiose it’s easier to see how it could be you.