Italian Neo-Realism in Cinema

Something I've written, its an informational bit on a 1948 Italiam Ne0-Realism film. I tend to branch something out of this.

The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

The films that defined the reality of the Italian Neo-realism movement included such films asToni (Jean Renoir, 1935) or1860 (Alessandro Blasetti, 1934), but none could resemble the image of “the real world” thatThe Bicycle Thief (De Sica, 1948) provided to its viewers. During this movement, Italy was faced with post-war effects that included both, social and economic depression after World War Two. At this point, the people in society began to question their lifestyles. They began to observe, criticize and construct the way they see the world by expressing their ideas through Italian artwork, literature and cinema.

The Italian Neo-realism movement was initiated and enthused by French film critic and theorist, Andre Bazin (1918-1958) who was also the co-creator and contributing writer to popular film magazineCahiers du cinema (Doniol-Valcroze, Lo Duca, 1951). Bazin discovered that during this time, political and economic society should be analyzed and criticized through “objective reality,” in the eyes of the filmmaker. According to Balzin, the term personalism was one of the truest forms of cinema integrity. Examples of personalism would include a realistic and un-glorified view of post-war Italian life expressed through documentaries or wide-shot angled films with scenes of real locations and everyday people of the working class. Director Vittorio De Sica’s filmThe Bicycle Thief did just that.

Vittorio De Sica was an Italian and French actor and director who overall contributed to over 100 Italian films. De Sica’s acting appearances can be found in the films Darò un milione (1935) andGrandi Magazzine (Department Store, 1939). Both films were directed by Italian director Mario Camerini.  Throughout  De Sica’s directing career, he was often financing the making of his own films. The themes that he is also known for include themes of comedy, tragedy, the usage of strong, confident, and leading male roles.

The 90 minute film, The Bicycle Thief represented the story of husband/father name Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) who is desperately searching for his bicycle that was stolen during his first day of work. This film is based on the economic depression of post-war Italy of the poor and working class society. Antonio and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) spend endless days searching for his missing bicycle. While searching for his missing property, he goes through desperate measures by enduring dramatic weather changes, visiting the local fortune teller and falsely accusing suspicious people. As the sole provider for his family, Antonio feels to search for his bike until sought because it’s his only means for transportation, but most importantly it was specifically requested by his employer. He is distraught by loss of his bike and feels a though he’s lost his pride. Throughout the film, he experiences a series of events that helps him grow as a character and to accept his loss. In contrast, he realizes that he can be in worse situations than the one he’s in now.

The attitudes of gratitude, determination, self-loathing, pity and acceptance in Anthony’s character brings a holistic approach to the film, to which the audience can relate.  During this time in Italy, it was difficult to find work as society was faced with a high ratio of poverty due to lack of employment opportunities. Therefore, the film can easily be relatable to the average person in the post-war, depression era who struggles to find work and to provide for a family. By using non-professional actors and outdoor filming of actual buildings and naturalistic landscaping, it suddenly became more realistic to the viewer. This type of directing was on a unique and different spectrum to what was being shown in Hollywood cinema.

“I've lost all my money on these films. They are not commercial. But I'm glad to lose it this way. To have for a souvenir of my life pictures like Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thief.”

 Vittorio De Sica’s work for The Bicycle Thief has received over 15 international awards including best foreign film in 1949 at the United States, Spain (1951) and Tokyo, Japan (1951). De Sica had been nominated and awarded for other directorial neo-realist films such as the nomination for Umberto D.(1952), and winner for Miracolo a Milano(1951) at the Cannes Film Festival. De Sica is one of the most recognized international directors during the Italian Neo-realism movement who is a crucial component to the neo-realist cinema of acting and directing.  

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