Vittorio de Sica's The Bicycle Thief Essay

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Vittorio de Sica's The Bicycle Thief

Since the beginning of its existence as a country, Italy has faced enormous challenges in establishing itself as a unified political and social entity. The geographic, economic, and linguistic differences between its various regions and the artificial manner in which they were amalgamated created a legacy of internal divisions that continues to dominate the country's political climate to this day. Italy's numerous historical fiascoes, such as its disastrous involvement in the two World Wars and the rise of fascism, further escalated the domestic problems that had haunted it since the Risorgimento. At first, the anti-fascist Resistance movement, which dominated the end of World War II, seemed to bring Italy a ray of hope, promising a new era of freedom, reform, and democratic representation. However, this hope was quickly extinguished, as widespread poverty, government corruption, and deep divisions between regions and classes persisted and no true social reform was attained. These harsh conditions were depicted by a group of Italian film directors whose neorealist works have since been celebrated as masterpieces of world cinema. One of the most prominent of these is Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief. This 1948 film discusses the prevalent themes dominating Italy's social and political history, within the context of the unsettlingly poor post-War urban proletariat.

Among the most prominent motifs in Italian politics since the Risorgimento has been a tendency for quasi-action (inaction disguised as action), in the form of transformismo and attendismo. The first of these terms refers to the practice of "assuring the government of an adequate majority in parliament either by a prelimina...

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...ial failure.

This somber conclusion of the film seems to be an expression of hopelessness for Italy's future. By 1948, the country had gone through a series of tumultuous historical events, caused by the inadequacy of its political and economic system. The disillusionment of its citizens with the system and in fact with the very concept of their nation was taken to its limits by yet another failure to achieve true social change after World War II. The transformismo of the Christian Democrats and the attendismo of the Communists offered no hope for Italians, appearing as just another stage in the country's endless cycle of political and social failure. The Bicycle Thief is a portrait of Italy's collective consciousness, haunted by its disturbing past and disillusioned towards its future.

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