The Bicycle Thieves (1948) De Sica : An Introduction

Before we start unpicking and breaking down The Bicycle Thieves, it is important that we understand a bit more about it so that we are fully equipped to analyse it appropriately.

We are studying this film because of its importance and influence on later European Cinema including the French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) and later British Social Realism.

It is also a good companion piece to our second film City of God because Cinema Novo was heavily influenced by and grew out of Italian Neo Realism. Just like City of God, The Bicycle Thieves, shows a city in crisis and the impact that has on the inhabitants. Just like City of God, the protagonists are trapped and disenfranchised in a city that has marginalised them (pushed them aside and forgotten about them). Here are some of the key contexts that are evident in the film, which we need to research.

Please complete your notes in your booklets:

  • The film is set in Italy just after World War II, a devastated society, with unemployment running at 25-30%!
  • It shows us a defeated country that is unsure about its future.
  • The film shows us people who were promised so much by the facist government, but badly lets down.
  • It explores a country and people that are fractured and defeated
  • The institutional powers (Government, Police & Church) are broken down and offer no help to the protagonists.
  • It is about a working class that is struggling to survive.
  • It’s about the degrading, humiliating and corrupting influence of living in such a society has on the people forced into the margins (the disenfranchised)

Here are a couple of useful videos:

A brief overview of Italian Neo Realism:

Here is a great lecture given by MIT Professor David Thorburn, who covers:

  • The context of post WWII Italy
  • The features and ‘density’ of Italian Neo Realism (28.00 – 34.15)
  • The cinema of Fascist Italy that the film was reacting to

The topics which you are going to present on the Bicycle Thieves and the contexts surrounding it are:

  1. Rita Heyworth & Hollywood glamour
    1. American Film Noir movies of the 1930’s & 1940’s
    2. Italian Cinema during the Mussolini Era
  2. A confident self assured fascist Italy under Mussolini and a defeated Italy at the end of WWII
  3. The cinematic movement called ‘Italian Neo Realism’
    1. Who were the big directors and films of that movement?
    2. What were they trying to say?
    3. How did they seek to use cinematic technique to suit their political agenda?

Your Notes

Use this booklet to complete your notes.

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