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Film Studies: ”The Bicycle Thieves” by Vittorio de Sica Essay

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Updated: Mar 16th, 2020

The Bicycle Thieves is an award-winning film that was produced in Italy in1948 by Vittorio De Sica. This essay offers a succinct analysis of the film in terms of plot and theme developments, character analysis, use of sound and images as well as the overall context.

It is one of the typical examples of a neo-realistic film that was created after the end of the Great World Wars. The film depicts a gritty and cumbersome world in several ways. The grainy films were shot in various settings using hand-held cameras.

Antonio Ricci’s life has been explored in the film. To bring out the intended meaning, a realist approach has been used to depict the endeavor of the persona as he strives to get back his stolen bicycle. Moreover, a realistic plot has been created in the film using basic and daily occurrences in life.

The audience is only in a position to obtain the projected meaning due to the raw emotions used in the film. The lead roles in the film were portrayed by Enzo Staiola and Lamberto Maggiorani. They were non-actors in the film.

In this particular analysis, the scene that will be explored runs from 01:19:00:00 to 01:24:00:00. The scene shows a crowd chasing a bicycle thief who has just stolen a bike from the side of a street. The son of the thief runs after him as he cries loudly. Both the father and the son are then embarrassingly frog-matched by the crowd along the street to the police station. This is the most intense and dramatic section of the movie.

The emotionally erratic son opts to run after his father because he notes that a crowd of people is barging him. Intense emotions and ideas have been excellently displayed through the body language of the non-actors in the film. A feeling of empathy or being sorry cannot escape the mind of the audience at this point due to the sadness, tears, and worried expressions that can be seen all over the face of the unhappy son.

The scene also contains several shots that can be considered to be terrific. However, the shots can be considered to be accidental bearing in mind that improvisation is a common technique used in most neo-realistic movies. The camera creates a fantastic shot as it spins close to the unhappy son of a thief who is starring as events unfold.

The movement of the bicycle is similar to camera work. This redirects the attention of the spectators to get the impression that the father is being looked at by the son. The boy appears to be worried and angry simultaneously.

The camerawork at the portion is rather shaky. The ensuing actions are rapidly being followed by handheld cameras. To some extent, it resembles a shot in documentary footage. Such a shot psychologically convinces the audience on the realistic nature of the film because people have quite strong ties documentaries and news footages. A lot of things are allowed to take place in front of the camera, thereby creating an image of a movie shot in a real city setting.

A city in a state of ruin has been portrayed in the location of the shot. For instance, the crowd is dressed in filthy and torn outfits in the mise-en-scene. As a result, the notion of poverty is reinforced. The grueling scene also assists in understanding the motive for stealing the bicycle. The fact that this place is poverty-stricken has been affirmed by the meager material possessions, the dilapidated scenery, streets, and the ripped clothes worn by the characters.

The barbarity associated with abject poverty has been revealed through the mean streak in the film. An impression of a violent society has also been demonstrated in the film by the mob of the angry crowd ready to unleash their wrath on the bicycle thief. It is pertinent to mention that the Post War era in Italy was marked with a long period of economic turmoil that left households in a dire state of poverty.

The poverty index was high in Italy after the end of the first and second world wars. Clues and themes of the intense rate of crime have been mapped throughout the film. For example, the police walls are filled with posters for the “Most Wanted” criminals who are still at large.

The scene does not contain a lot of speech except for minimal conversation between the thief and the young boy. Facial expressions and physical portrayals are the major part of acting in this scene. Hence, dialogue does not take the center stage. The scene also contains faint music in the background. The musical sounds do not dominate the scene.

It is obvious that this is the best way to present the quiet loneliness that has engulfed both the father and his son. In the real sense, the somber mood does not require a great deal of music. It is also interesting to mention that the background music is similar to an orchestra. The sharp, deep tones tend to deduce some of looming danger. The audience is readily left to empathize with the two victims gripped in an isolated situation.

The source of sound in this part of the film is mainly emanating from the immediate traffic and yelling from the crowd. These are likely the only sounds that were recorded when the movie was being taken. However, it was not a mistake at all since it injects perfect realism into the movie.

Emotion has been conveyed throughout the film through staring of the eyes. The element of “acting devoid of speaking” has been brought out vividly in this scene. Characters have managed to use several close-ups in the scene.

The logic that demonstrates the degree of a messed life has been depicted in the film. A state of contradiction is also evident in this scene. For instance, the man desperately requires a source of livelihood. However, he needs a bike to obtain a job. Worse still, acquiring a bike demands money. Unfortunately, he is not in a position to buy a bicycle because he has no money.

To a large extent, I suppose there is harmonious chemistry between the father and the son. The latter makes the film to work. A strong and unrelenting partnership between a father and son has been expressed in the storyline. It makes the audience to easily identify with the realities of life. The two characters portray genuine looks. Also, an incredible performance is visualized when they demonstrate a close emotional attachment in the scene.

There are several instances when the camera presents the story from one character’s point of view. For instance, the young boy featured in several stand-alone shots when the father is being yelled and chased by the angry crowd. Besides, the two key characters are predominantly featured after the crowd has left them. The latter is achieved by positioning the camera at different angles.

For example, the camera is zoomed closer to the character’s sad face. Changing the angle of the camera to focus on the feelings of a character is a skillful way of emphasizing the pitiful or dire situation at hand. It is only through the facial expression of the characters that the audience can share the feelings in the film. It also relates to the major theme of poverty as portrayed in the movie through the tattered clothing and gloomy faces.

In terms of composition and image, space usage in the film is accurately balanced. All the characters have a reasonable share of the available space. The only time when the bicycle thief is constantly surrounded by specific people is when he is being matched to the police. The action augers well with the situation at hand because he cannot be allowed to walk freely since he is a thief.

To present the action, the camera has been positioned in different angles depending on the prevailing action. A case in point is when the thief is finally caught.

The camera is canted to highlight the sad face of the man who is shocked and dumbfounded. Also, crane shots and pans have been skillfully created by the camera to depict the wrath of the crowd. The presence of several old bicycles parked at the side of the streets indicates an extreme state of poverty that has befallen the city dwellers.

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