Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio de Sica, is a masterpiece representative of Italian Neo-Realism movement. Its magnificence as a rebel against the mainstream drew great critical attention and was received as revolutionary. With only a brief and realistic plot, the film is able to generate the sentiment and meaning that was believed to be only achievable through epics. Its depiction of humans and society coincide with the values of Italian Neo-realism. Italian Neo-realism is basically the “dada of the film industry.
” The movement dares to challenge every aspect of a normalized filmmaking formulae followed by many filmmakers under influence of Hollywood. U. S. films dominated the industry at the time, as its land as well as movie studios were the least damaged. Italian cinema, despite its dire involvement in the war, was not necessarily devastated. The problem, however, was the insistence of making propaganda films—known as “White Telephone” films—by the Fascist government. This had ruined the Italian cinema of proper filmmaking, and had rendered its films to be shallow melodramas and comedies.
The Italian Neo-Realism came out as a rebellion. It despised the restrictions given to filmmaking by its former government as well as the Americans. Instead of shooting most films inside studios, filmmakers went outdoors, not limiting their scope of the film to indoors. As is the case with most “realist” movements, Italian Neo-Realism tried to capture the raw face of the ugly society—it was not much after the war. Consequently, in Bicycle Thieves, postwar Italy, without any embellishments, is shown.
De Sica does not make any attempts to make the society seem ideal. The audience is introduced to the crude society full of social problems. The setting of the film is the reality; not less, not more. Nevertheless it is the most important to the story, without a doubt. Postwar Italy, with small money, smaller jobs and huge number of unemployed labor force, was a society of turmoil. Introduction of Capitalism had caused some to prosper, but with Italy’s disfigured economy it only meant someone on the other side of the street had to starve.
Antonio, the hero of the film, is one of those people whose life depends on whether they get a job from the government or not. The beginning of the movie, as well as Antonio’s desperation to find his bicycle, could not have been possible if not for the realistic depiction of postwar Italian society of the mid-1900s. The setting, therefore, can be seen as the driving force of the story, the reason of the film’s doomsday atmosphere and hopelessness.