Won Honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Nominated for Academy Award for Best Screenplay
Date of Release
November 24th, 1948 (Italy)
Giuseppe Amato, Vittorio De Sica
Setting and Context
Post WWII Italy, Rome and the various cities on its outskirts
Narrator and Point of View
Antonio's point of view dominates the film. Occasionally, the view of Antonio is filtered through the perspective of his son, Bruno.
Tone and Mood
Downbeat, somber serious, melodramatic
Protagonist and Antagonist
Protagonist: Antonio and Bruno; Antagonist: the police, poverty, the thief in some ways
On his first day of work, Antonio's bicycle is stolen. His job is contingent on the transport provided by the bike, so without it, Antonio will not be able to continue working and provide for his family.
Unable to find his stolen bike, Antonio decides to steal one himself, but he is caught by a mob of men before he can escape.
The theft of Antonio's bike is foreshadowed. When he visits his employer to receives orders for his job, two men tell him to put his bike down. One even says, "Put that down, what are you afraid of?"
The entire storytelling style of "Bicycle Thieves" uses understatement and a "show, don't tell" technique. We know Antonio and his family are poor, but grand, melodramatic laments about their impoverished status and general unluckiness are uncommon in the film. Instead, it is Antonio's actions, especially in the climatic final scenes, that reflect his desperation and moral dilemma. Likewise, subtle visual cues—the ubiquity of streetcars and bicycles instead of cars in Rome—hint at the citizens' inability to afford luxurious items and the country's state of economic despair by extension. Because "Bicycle Thieves does not adopt a heavy-handed method of storytelling, viewers can interpret and connect with the film in their own ways.
Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques
De Sica's creative use of the neorealist style—natural lighting, non-professional actors, on-location shooting—gives "Bicycle Thieves" a documentary-esque look that countless of filmmakers have attempted to emulate.
One of the film's central allusions is a Rita Hayworth poster which Antonio hangs up on the 1st day of his job. This allusion to the classic 40s movie star juxtaposes Hollywood glamour and the bleak, poverty-stricken reality of postwar Europe.
De Sica contemplates the paradoxes of poverty throughout the film. After Antonio's bike gets stolen, he reports the incident to the police, who refuse to provide any meaningful help and encourage Antonio to look for the bike himself. Antonio possesses a strong moral code, but paradoxically abandons his values out of his own self-interest and struggle to survive.
Maria takes Antonio to the seer's place early in the film. Antonio laughs at Maria and condemns the visit as frivolous and senseless, but once his situation changes, Antonio goes of his own accord to visit the fortune teller with Bruno. These parallel scenes illustrate how a man's views toward a single setting can radically change under different circumstances.
Bicycle Thieves Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Bicycle Thieves is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Bicycle Thieves (also called The Bicycle Thief) study guide contains a biography of director Vittorio De Sica, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.