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Poverty and trust: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

By Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 05, 2022 | In Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

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Bicycle Thieves, the most beloved classic of Italian neo-realist cinema, would be too easily explained as depicting the crushing pressures of poverty and societal dysfunction in Rome immediately following World War II. But the film transcends any sociological analysis: it has something spiritual to say about how those in poverty can respond to their situation: about trust, and about how quickly things get worse when we act as though we are in control of our circumstances.

The film also defies any suspicion that something with the name “neo-realism”, which uses real locations and non-professional actors in order to better document social realities, will necessarily be drab, materialist and undramatic. Screenwriter Cesare Zavattini’s neo-realist slogan, “Life as it is”, is clarified by director Vittorio de Sica’s explanation of why he decided to make a film about the theft of a bicycle: “Uncovering the drama in everyday life, the wonderful in the daily news.”

Bicycle Thieves is included on the Vatican’s 1995 list of important films, in the category of Values.

Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com

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