Director's Influence on Bicycle Thieves

Director's Influence on Bicycle Thieves

Vittorio De Sica stems from the Italian Neorealism movement. Post World War II, Mussolini had left in his wake the influence of fascist propaganda on film, and those in this new movement wanted to change the perception of film. De Sica was one of those directors who believed that films could make a difference and help the poverty stricken people of Italy. So, De Sica, along with others, decided to leave the studios and shoot everything on location. They also wanted to tell the stories of ordinary people or people who were in a poverty crisis. The neorealism movement wanted to put their characters in predicaments where they are disempowered. Thus, making the characters less in control of getting what they wanted. This starkly contrasted the Hollywood was making films. Their lead characters were very much in control of their actions and thus had control of being able to obtain their goals. By doing this De Sica and those in the Neorealism movement believed that cinema could become the medium where the regeneration of Italy itself could happen.

De Sica, along with getting out of the studios to film scenes would use non-actors in this film to get an authentic feel for actual people at the time. De Sica has said that he loved non-actors because they were blank canvases that could adapt to anything he asked them to do. And, during the making of Bicycle Thieves De Sica would show the actors exactly what he wanted them to do, acting it out for them, and then asking them to mimic what he had done. This shows that De Sica had a clear vision about how he wanted to film to be staged, and thus why the composition of this film stands out in a great degree. He knew what he wanted to showcase and he was able to get the actors to embody his vision. De Sica was able to work with these non-professional actors to such great degree because he himself was an accomplished actor. He was later nominated for an Academy Award for his role in A Farewell To Arms.

De Sica also chose to avoid too many noticeably obvious camera moves or long tracking shots. The director would often allow long takes and shoot the actors wide in order to take advantage of the beauty of the Italian streets, and avoid editing as little as possible. Thus, when there was an edit it held deeper meaning in congruence with what the characters were experiencing in that moment. Lastly, the director along with the screenwriters developed a story with very little plot, which isn’t uncommon today, but at the time went against the grain of traditional storytelling. I believe De Sica’s ability to infuse deep meaning into an object and his ability to compose shots that serve the emotional story he was telling allowed him to accomplish what screenwriter Cesare Zavattini termed “life as it is.”

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