One of the most celebrated examples of Italian neo-realism, Vittorio De Sica's 1948 masterpiece "Ladri di Biciclette" ("Bicycle Thieves") tells of an unemployed man in post-war Italy catching a lucky break in a difficult job market of getting work in plastering posters on fences and walls around Rome thanks to him happening to own a bicycle. However, on his first day on the job, his bicycle ends up getting stolen, a major setback as it is a vitally important piece of equipment for his work as he needs it as transportation in getting from one location to another. Determined to not loose his hard-to-come-by job, the man begins a desperate search for his bike with the help of his 8-year-old son. In true neo-realist style, the movie is entirely populated by non-professional actors and the war-devastated cityscape is not a set, lending an element of realism to the hardships our protagonists go through and the increasing desperation with which our protagonist's task is obfuscated by a country still in recovery from years of strife. Loosely based on the novel of Luigi Bartolini, De Sica's aim was to shine light on the country's poverty and unemployment situation, highlighted by showing life the way it is without attempting to romanticise it in any way.
Lamberto Maggiorani (in actuality a factory worker) is wonderful as the victim, whose desperation escalates over the course of his search as society slowly grinds his hopes to dust every step of the way, while Enzo Staiola is perfect as the loyal son wanting to help his father in his trek throughout Rome despite the difficulties they face. And truly it is this relationship between father and son that resides at the heart of the film, leading to a path in which the formerly somewhat disconnected and aloof father ends up finding the solace and strength he needs to continue marching on thanks to the son who remains by his side even if the society at large turns its back on him. The end result is a tragic, but heartfelt movie that doesn't give a falsely sentimental "happy" ending to make the audience feel good at the conclusion - very much reflective of life itself - and continues the themes from the director's previous movie "Shoeshine" in its stripped down depiction of life in a shattered, dog-eats-dog world where the realisation of what's truly important to you can make the difference between having the strength to push forward with your life or to throw in the towel and just give up. Aka. "The Bicycle Thief." (c) berlioz 2014