Category: World Cinema

Italian Neo Realism Style & Meaning.

Here is a really excellent lecture by Professor David Thorburn on Italian Neo Realism as evident in The Bicycle Thieves (1948) De Sica.

He does a close analysis of the opening scene, from the moment Antonio takes the job until his initial meeting with Maria. He also elaborates later in the lecture on some of the key features of Italian Neo Realism and how it is responding to the social, political and cultural crisis in Italy at that time.

Here are my notes based on his lecture (which doesn’t replace watching the lecture yourself). The quotes can be attributed to him.

Here is part 2 of the lecture for some extended study:

City of God Character Profile

You need to have a thorough understanding of the characters within The City of God and be able to illustrate your understanding with examples.

To be able to discuss character you need examples of:

  • What they say
  • What other people say about them (especially the narrator(Rocket))
  • What they do
  • What they look like
  • Their character ‘journeys’
  • What they say about The City (of God) (especially the narrator)

You should also include your thoughts on their function in the narrative; what role do they play and what themes do they illustrate?

In small groups please complete a character profile for:

  • Rocket
  • Li’l Zé
  • Bené
  • Knockout Ned
  • The Runts

Place your image in the center of an A3 piece of paper and surround it with quotes, images, examples of behaviour, stages in their narrative journey.

Character Profile of Bene
Character Profile of Knockout Ned
Character Profile of Lil Z
Character Profile of Rocket
Character Profile of The Runts

City of God Debate

Read this review

The motion is that the visual style of City of God (2002) Meirelles & Lund, overwhelms the substance of the narrative.

Our reaction to the film is purely one of reacting to the exhilarating images & sounds we are presented with and consequently our understanding of the themes and issues is diminished.

Debate with examples from the text.

Here is some extended reading for those of you who would like to read more about this debate.

Here are the notes from Miss Hales’ class debate…


Bicycle Thieves Close Study

Here is some analysis of the Bicycle Thieves:

  • Post World War 2 Rome as represented in The Bicycle Thieves

  • The (disintegrating?) relationship of Antonio and Bruno

  • The Bicycle Thieves as an example of a Neo Realist Text

  • As a damning indictment of the fascist legacy and Hollywood glamour

  • A narrative analysis of The Bicycle Thieves (positioning, structure, themes and conflicts)


The Bicycle Thieves (1948) de Sica

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 City of God because Cinema Novo was heavily influenced by and grew out of Italian Neo Realism. Like City of God, it 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)

An 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?


Hollywood Glamour

Italy under Mussolini and defeated Italy at the end of WWII

‘Italian Neo Realism’ a primer:

Presentations on Bicycle Thieves (1948) De Sica

This week you will be working in small groups or pairs on a presentation of an aspect of Bicycle Thieves. You will be presenting on one of the following elements of the film.

Post World War 2 Rome as represented in The Bicycle Thieves

The (disintegrating?) relationship of Antonio and Bruno

The Bicycle Thieves as an example of a Neo Realist Text

As a damning indictment of the fascist legacy and Hollywood glamour


A narrative analysis of The Bicycle Thieves (structure & conflicts)


Miss Hales Class Presentations

Please prepare a presentation that can be embedded into this blog as a revision guide for the whole class. You should use Prezi, Google Slide, Voice Thread or another presentation tool, which allows you to use images from the film as well as add notes or a voice over.