The Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica – 1948)
Arguably the best Italian neorealist film ever made and certainly one in the upper echelon of world cinema, The Bicycle Thieves is a classic in the truest sense of the word. Italian neorealism was a post WWII film movement, which used location shooting, non-professional actors and dealt with the hard economic conditions of the working class during this time.
A poor family man, at the end of his tether, finally finds a job putting up posters in the days immediately after the end of World War II. The job, however, requires a bicycle and as the family have nothing of value left, they decide to pawn their bed sheets in order to be able to buy a bicycle. On the first day of the job, the bicycle is stolen which starts a frantic search by the father and his young son through the streets of Rome, attempting to find their sole means of survival.
The film works on many levels: as a document of its era, as a sentimental drama, as clear social commentary and as a prime example of the neorealist movement; which was born out of necessity in post-WWII in Italy as there were simply no means to make movies. Filmmakers were forced to tell simple stories dealing with the after-effects of the war on ordinary poor people, whilst shooting on location and with non-professional actors. This movie received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film seven years before they officially came up with that category; it’s that good!