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This famous, highly acclaimed, Italian Neo-Realist film touches on the subjects of alienation, desperation, and post-war depression. Filmed in Rome in 1948, Vittorio de Sica reveals a world of war-torn, poverty stricken Italy. Viewers are introduced to Antonio Ricci, who like most men in Italy after World War II, is in a desperate search for work. Hired as a government worker who pastes film posters all around the war ravaged buildings of Rome, Antonio is told that he needs to have a bicycle if he wants the job. Anxiously in need of a bicycle, Antonio’s wife sells their bedroom sheets for money to purchase a bike for Antonio’s job. While first day on the job, Antonio’s bicycle is stolen from him by a young adolescent. In a frantic search through the streets of Rome, Antonio and his young son search for the thief and the bicycle. After no luck, Antonio is ready to give up all hope. In a last desperate effort, Antonio visits a fortune-teller (who he previously mocked when his wife went in search for answers when Antonio was unemployed) in order to find hopeful answers. As he walks outside from where the fortune-teller lives he sees the thief. As he embraces him and starts accusing the young man of stealing his bicycle, his son meanwhile fetches a policeman. The young man starts having a seizure and the officer tells Antonio that there is not enough evidence to convict the young man. Feeling dejected, Antonio leaves. In hopeless despair, Antonio sits on a curb where several bicycles are parked. Feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and distressed Antonio steals a bicycle outside an apartment. A crowd of men see him take the bicycle. They catch Antonio and ridicule him mercilessly. Sadly Antonio’s young son witnesses all of this. As Antonio’s son becomes immensely upset at what is happening to his father, the owner of the bicycle sees the son’s pain and does not press any charges against Antonio.

Italian Neo-Realism is one of the most compelling and poignant genres of cinema. Relying on the real life situations faced by Italians after the Second World War, Neo-Realist directors conveyed the often experienced feelings of alienation, desperation, loneliness, and hopelessness. The desolate, austere, scarred buildings of Rome metaphorically symbolize the somber lives of its Roman inhabitants. It makes one wonder how a simple, widely accessible, fairly affordable mode of transportation like a bicycle can serve as a basis for survival.

Other Vittorio de Sica films that are worth checking out are: Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D, and Two Women

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