By Fiona Lai

Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica)

About the film

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette, in Italian), a crime and drama film by Vittorio De Sica in 1948.

The story is set in the post World War 2 Rome and follows Antonio Ricci, a poor man and breadwinner of his family. Accompanied by his son, they search for Ricci’s stolen bicycle.

According to Turner Classic Movies, the brand name on Antonio’s bicycle is Fides, the Italian for “faith,” losing the bicycle from the start symbolize the loss of Italy in its faith it’s traditional institutions.

(Interrogating the thief’s house. Not too long after, the police tells Ricci due to lack of evidence)

This shows that De Sica was addressing that the Italians have lost hope in trusting the authorities. In the film, the police failed to assist Antonio in finding his bicycle. Despite the lack of evidence to capture the thief, the police easily dropped the case as they did not understand the importance of the bicycle to him and the unemployment and poverty rates.

Keep its freshness

Similarly to other De Sica’s films, Bicycle Thieves addresses the economic hardship and emotional health simplistically. In this case, Bicycle Thieves is in reflection to the post World War 2 poverty in Italy.

In order to capture to essence of the economic conditions of Italy’s lower class, De Sica emphasized on realism and the daily struggles. He focused on the different characters’ attitude and behavior that are in reflection to the Italians back then.

The unprofessional actors were casted in order to capture the raw and fresh emotions in each scene. He allowed his actors (including the extras) to act as themselves whenever possible. The purpose is to ensure that the camera would also capture the story behind those characters.

To capture such scenes, the film was mostly shot from medium to long shots and had long takes with close up of the characters’ facial expressions.


As the father and son journey to find the thief, the film remarkably captured different human emotions such as hope, love and frustration.

Right from the very start, De Sica dives into poverty and skillfully showcase the characters’ mood on the poverty situation. Dull music was laid over the scene of men with gloomy faces gathering to the job offering location while those who were there were had hopeful faces.

Ricci’s wife pawned their most valued belongings without hesitation to ensure Ricci’s spot in taking up that job. Ricci is an optimistic father who has hope that he would find back his bicycle with an underlining determination to put food on his family’s table.

De Sica showed the audience that poverty is always present as shown in the lunch scene.

(Ricci and his son having lunch)

Despite wanting to forget about their worries and monetary issues for a moment, they were reminded of them upon seeing a rich family enjoying their meal care-freely. This is where the daily struggles of a lower class man were showed – Ricci starts calculating the amount of loses he would make.

Later on in the film, after knowing that it is nearly impossible to get back his bicycle, Ricci was tempted to steal a bicycle. As he did not want his son to see him committing thief, he gives him money to return home. This shows that Ricci was willing to risk anything for his family and did not want to set a bad example to his own son.

(Ricci getting caught by citizens after stealing a bicycle by the street)

That was also a great example of a full circle film. – Starting and ending with and about bicycles.

Bicycle Thieves influnced Wang Xiaoshuai to direct a similar film centering around poverty in Beijing. The film is titled Beijing Bicycle (simplified Chinese: 十七岁的单车)

Fine. The end.

About the author:

Fiona, who believes that in life good and bad things happen. They are full of pain and happiness.  Also, she accepted the author’s invitation to this blog without creating an account so she is now using a kind-hearted cutie’s account.


Turner Classic Movies. 1948. Turner Classic Movies – TCM.com. [online] Available at: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/68597/The-Bicycle-Thief/articles.html [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

Static. 2008. Father and Son. [image online] Available at: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Film/Pix/pictures/2008/08/28/bicyclethief460.jpg [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

Blogger. 2010. The Bicycle Thief. [image online] Available at: http://twocentsworthafilm.blogspot.sg/2010/06/bicycle-thief.html [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

Download41. 2012. Bicycle Thieves. [image online] Available at: http://www.download41.com/img/images/19780506879202416426.jpg [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

Youtube. 2006. The Bicycle Thief – Lunch (Father and Son). Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmWQZg6271A [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

eatsleeplivefilm. 2011. Interrogation. [image online] Available at: http://www.eatsleeplivefilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ladri-di-biciclette-original.jpg [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

thefilmstage. 2001. bicycle_thieves. [image online] Available at: http://thefilmstage.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/bicycle_thieves.jpg [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

subtitledonline. n.d.. WORLD CINEMA: WHY I LOVE IT!. [image online] Available at: http://www.subtitledonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/bicycle-thieves1.jpg [Accessed: 23 June 2013].

En.wikipedia.org. 2001. Beijing Bicycle – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Bicycle [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].


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