A landmark of humanist filmmaking, Bicycle Thieves was a key work in the 1940s film movement known as Italian neo-realism. Like the wartime trilogy that Roberto Rossellini began with Rome: Open City (1945), it heralded a new kind of cinematic naturalism, employing non-professionals as actors and taking the camera out onto the streets to faithfully record the social realities of a Europe struggling to get back on its feet after WWII.
Adapted from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, the quiet tragedy of a father’s desperate hunt for a stolen bicycle that he depends on for his work has a fable-like simplicity. For all its vivid documentation of a downtrodden Rome, it is as a universal tale of human striving that De Sica’s film has proved influential.
“Bicycle Thieves not only embodies both aesthetically and politically the most important features of the Italian neorealist movement but also, with De Sica’s use of non-professional actors, social engagement and firm roots in the fabric of society, paved the way for hybridity in film and therefore the so-called ‘cinema of the real’.” Nico Marzano
“This painfully beautiful chronicle of life in post-World War II Rome salvages views of rundown streets, poverty and injustice with such precision and simplicity that the emotional punch of the finale is unparalleled.” Kaya Genç
“The gold standard for all human films about inequality.” Andrei Liimets