Roger Ebert proclaims that after watching the movie, The Bicycle Thief, many years later it still has strength and freshness. Godfrey Cheshire said that it had “brilliant conviction”. These two critics seem to have something in common. They both loved and see brilliance in a movie that is standing the test of time. Neorealism is a genre that a viewer should not expect a happy ending for. It is just what it is, real.
Both critics shed important insight into the film and offer some very critical points about a film that shows what a man will do to support his family during a time of great despair. Roger Ebert mentions that De Sica used real people instead of actors in his movies and he mentions the impact this had on audiences. The fact that the people in this movie were not trained actors is what makes this movie what it is. I think that it is a huge part of what gives this movie its realness.
To me, it almost was like De Sica stuck a camera in this man’s life and followed him through his struggles. It was the first “reality show” so to speak. I agree with Ebert on this point. Also, it is a movie that anyone can identify with. Like Ebert says, it is a movie about a man that wants to protect his family and support them but he has to battle against society to do so. That is a struggle that just about any family can relate to at some point in time. Godfrey Cheshire mentions in his review that the film is one of cinema’s great “city films”.
This is an aspect of the movie that I hadn’t picked up on, but it’s true. As a viewer, we are taken on a tour of Rome. We see the union hall scene, the thieves market, the church where he follows the old man to, and the brothels. With each location comes its own social scene as well. The viewer is able to understand the world this family is living in and you are left rooting for a happy ending that never comes. I think the geographical and social settings are what helped me understand this movie even further and enlightened me the most.
It is not only this family that is struggling though. The old man that they follow relies on the soup and the free shaving from the church. He has his own problems to deal with and his simply trying to make it in life. The same goes for every family or person we see. Except for, of course, the rich family in the restaurant. They are eating like kings and it is as if they are not even in the same world. After reading these reviews, my perception of the movie was deepened somewhat.
This deepening was mostly from the geographical and social settings that I hadn’t really paid close attention to or given much thought to before I read Godfrey Cheshire’s review. I think in order to truly understand this movie you have to really understand the world and society this family is facing. I can also see why this movie is standing the test of time and still impacting audiences the same way it did when it was released in 1949. This is one move that a happy ending does not belong in.