Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1948)

#98 in my top 100 spiritually literate films is Bicycle Thieves. This film is the pinnacle of Italian neo-realism. It is an unflinching look into the desperation of the poor and destitute. The story is stripped bare until there is only the understated essentials remaining. A father and son try to fix an injustice that is done to them when their bicycle is stolen, yet they are faced with overwhelming obstacles.

Bicycle Thieves is birthed from Italy’s post-war era and can be seen as a statement on a country that has been left by the wayside after the fascism of World War II. In the back streets of Rome no one is left unaffected by the war and no one considers themselves safe. Therein, De Sica marvelously accomplished what he set out to create; a gritty, realistic, slice of poetry out of the everyday life of late 1940s Italy.

This is a film that’s heart is not found in the events of the bicycle theft or even in the safe return of the bike, but in the mundane journey of redemption of one father and son. Antonio, the father, cries out “I curse the day I was born.” revealing his hopelessness, which ends up being his greatest sin. This hopelessness is what informs his entire perspective and trajectory on this singular bleak day in his life

This is a film about brokenness, hopelessness and the undaunting search for peace, redemption, and a future. Ultimately, we join them in this search and in their dilemma… will we bear our cross innocently as Jesus did or will we allow circumstances to justify desperate decisions?

 

Ryan Jantz

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