Year of Release: 1948
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Screenplay: Vittorio De Sica, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Gerardo Guerrieri, Oreste Biancoli, Adolfo Franci, from a story by Luigi Bartolini
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Vittorio Antonucci
Running Time: 85 minutes
In post-World War II Rome, Antonio Ricci (Maggiorani) is desperate for work to support his wife Maria (Carell), his son Bruno (Staiola), and his baby. He is overjoyed when he is offered a job putting up posters. However, on his first day of work, his bicycle, which he needs for his job, is stolen. With the police either unwilling or unable to help him, Antonio, with Bruno in tow, is forced into an increasingly desperate search through the backstreets, alleys, black markets and tenements of Rome to find his stolen property.
During World War II, many Italian film studios were bombed, and many actors were called up to fight. As a result, in the immediate post-war years, Italian filmmakers found themselves with very few facilities or actors. However, they managed to make a virtue out of a necessity. Filming largely on locations, with light-weight cameras, and using often non-professional actors, they developed a style which became known as "Italian neorealism", a semi-documentary approach, which continues to influence filmmakers today. Bicycle Thieves is seen as one of them greatest works of neorealism. This is a powerful look at poverty and desperation, with it's unflinching look at a man and his son, as their world crumbles around them, from the joy of morning to the despair of evening. The film was cast entirely with untrained non-professional actors. Lamberto Maggiorani was a factory worker, and 8-year old Enzo Staiola was cast when director Vittorio De Sica noticed him watching them on the street, while helping his father sell flowers. Both of them turn in devastating performances, with the image of Staiola gazing into the camera towards the end of the film becoming an icon of Italian cinema. It may be hard for some to understand how the loss of a bicycle can mean so much, but for the Riccis it's everything. Without the bicycle, he can't work, if he can't work, they don't eat. It's as simple and brutal as that. This is a film that is as powerful and as relevant today, as it was nearly seventy years ago.