Google Center of Content : Bicycle Thieves - An Analysis of the Vittorio De Sica's Movie

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bicycle Thieves - An Analysis of the Vittorio De Sica's Movie

                                        LANGUAGE: Italian                               

Plot Summary
A poor young father in postwar-ravaged Rome who finally finds work putting up Rita Hayworth posters around town, only to have his precious bicycle stolen the first day on the job. In a light moment as the father and his young son chase after the thief, the boy attempts to relieve himself against a wall, and his father lets him know they don't have time for that. In another scene, the father tracks the thief into the kitchen of a brothel.

The film “Bicycle Thief” is an Italian neo-realistic, black and white film directed by Vittorio De Sica. It obviously represents what lengths people are willing to go to in undertaking problems of daily life, such as community and financial troubles. The subject of the film is the hopeless poverty majority people found them in after World War II and the point they were prepared to go and get better their lives.“Vottorio clearly explains how people had to relinquish whatever they could in order to survive and how though, there was so much material wealth there were very few jobs. He also displays how, though fictional, the setting and the society the characters were in, was existent during the post war period.” (Crowther, 1949).

The movie rotates around Antonio Ricci; he discovers himself jobless for almost two years. Lastly gets an employment recommend, as a poster sign man, posting poster about the city, after waiting for months in front of the city center labor exchange office. One take, he wants a bicycle. He has one, but it’s in a pawn-shop. His wife, Maria sells their commodities bed sheets and tablecloths so Antonio can get back his bicycle.This is a scene that demonstrate how in realism, poverty and social classes influenced poor populace in their decision making process. “The setting which is postwar Rome also explains the actions and decisions the characters made, in the pawn shop the owner stacks Antonio’s linen in a large room which is almost filled with similar linens, these shows how in the midst of plenty there were people who were still very poor.” (Stafford, 2008). 
Bicycle Thieves film poster
Vottorio including non actors and filming on location, it’s given the film an additional realistic approach. In the opening scene, it shows presented with a set of frustrated jobless workers. In another scene, Antonio and Maria, his wife, back to their small apartment house. They are carrying two pales of water gotten from a barrel in the center of the town.Cinematography in The Bicycle Thieves plays a key role in capturing the neo-realist style; a naturalistic style in both literature and film that emerged in the 1940s and was extremely leading in the Italian film industry. According to Film scholar (Christopher, 2000) calls it "an astute blending of realistic elements the work-and-theft situation, the central characters, the social relations and some aspects of the ways they are shown with anti-realist ones the tragic structure, the frequent parallels, the architectural qualities of the treatment, the music.”
In the film, neo-realism is expressed by long static shots for shifts, for instance when a location is being established the shot is held longer than some American made films. For a few remaining seconds, the shot is held to capture more people walking by in the street. Shots such as these give the sense that the filmmakers required to demonstrate not only main characters in their film, but also other people in the city who was also suffering from the effects that World War II had upon their country. Neo-realism is also communicated by the nonappearance of camera concentration; meaning the viewers is not conscious that they are watching the film unfold through the approach of the camera. The viewers are given the logic that they are watching actual life, about as if they were part of film.

In addition, “the framing and composition play an instrumental role in the cinematography of this film, and in extension how neo-realism is displayed. The camera lingers back giving greater distance between the subject of the shot and the camera, itself; this is a significant difference between other films of that time period. These shots reveal about 2/3 of most characters, showing their skinny stature, ripped and torn clothing, and an overall desperate demeanor.”(Snyder & Curle, 2000). Without the understated cinematography the audience would have realized they were being given extra information about the character and culture of the era. It is the ideal balance that basically allocates the viewers to feel knotted in the film, acceptance the style of neo-realism to its fullest.

“The emotion of "The Bicycle Thief" is greatly enhanced by the musical score by Alessandro Cicognini. In most films from this era, the soundtrack can be irritatingly bombastic and intrusive, but here it is deeply moving, a mournful weeping adagio that does exactly what a good score is supposed to do reflect musically what is taking place on the screen.”(Abrams, 1999). It could be probably listen to just the soundtrack and come away with the film’s moral message that’s how fitting Cicognini’s background score.

“The minimal editing as cuts and montages were seen as manipulative to preserve reality, while new wave makes copious use of editing, including jump cuts and rapid montages. A jump cut occurs when editing ends an action performed onscreen, with the next frame resuming the same scene and action at a different point, producing abrupt jumps in the continuity.”(Aurelius, n.d). Vottorio attempt to represent life as realistically as possible, with long, continuous shots and changes in the cameraangle, to make public in the audience forget they're watching a film. New wave films employ diverse camera angles and editing techniques, at times making it surrealistic or surprising the viewers. Such techniques remind the viewers they're watching a film. 
Mise-en-scene resides of all things used in the arrangement of a scene. The term covers setting, costuming, lighting, framing, and the actors themselves. All things linked to the composition in a shot, particularly in relation to space, can be well thought-out mise-en-scene. For instance the main characters Antonio Ricci, accompanied by his son Bruno, search a hard-up Italian city for his stolen bicycle. The majority of shooting takes place outdoors, where natural lighting and on-location buildings add realism to the film unlike most of the films that preceded it.

The setting of Bicycle Thievesreplicates the anxiety of its characters. The post-war city is overflowing with jobless civilians who are apparently willing to do about anything for money. The streets are uncovered and many buildings look seared as though the city had been bombed. The city surroundings portray poverty and the characters are shown to be products of that situation. “The same effect is achieved through the use of crowds and a mass quantity of props. For instance, the scene at the Pawn Shop shows Antonio and his wife waiting in a long line to sell their bed sheets. When the sheets are sold, the shot cuts from the Riccis to what appears to be a never-ending shelf of linens.”(Verburg, 1998). The mise-en-scene of Bicycle Thievesis both realistic and manipulative. The scenes are serene to build the spectator feel what Antonio Ricci feels and it is able to accomplish this, partially through the natural setting, lighting, and arrangement of actors and props.


Bicycle Thieves is one of the greatest films of all time, natural and accurate. The narrative is so straight forward and universal those audiences around the world have embraced it for decades. When Sight and Sound Magazine began their now acclaimed greatest films polls each decade, Bicycle Thieves was the first film to be declared the best film of all time. It has since remained in the top ten list decade after decade. It is the finest example of Italian Neo-realism a form of cinema that was prevalent in Italy after World War II.


Abrams, D. (1999). Bicycle Thief: Much-Touted, Little Seen Classic. Retrieved November 19 2012, from

Christopher, W. (2000). After the Classic, the Classical and Ideology: The Differences of Realism," in Reinventing Film Studies, ed. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams London: Arnold. Pp 218.

Crowther, B. (1949). Vittorio De Sica's 'The Bicycle Thief,' a Drama of Post-War Rome, Arrives at World. Retrieved November 20 2012, from

Stafford, R. (2008). Bicycle Thieves - Ladri di biciclette, Italy 1948. Retrieved November 20 2012, from

Snyder, S & Curle, H. (2000). Vittorio De Sica: Contemporary Perspectives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Pp 146.

Verburg, L. (1998). Italian Neo-Realism and The Bicycle Thief. Retrieved November 19 2012, from

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