Bicycle Thief
"The Bicycle Thief" is a deeply moving neo-realist study of post-War

Italy which depicts one man’s loss of faith and his struggle to maintain
personal dignity in poverty and bureaucratic indifference. Antonio Ricci is a
bill-poster whose bicycle, essential for his job, is stolen by a thief. Joined
by his son Bruno, Antonio vainly searches for his bike, eventually resorting to
the humiliation of theft himself. Throughout this paper, I will attempt to trace
the character through "The Bicycle Thief." The film opens with a
montage of early morning urban activities ending on a crowd of unemployed
laborers clamoring for work. Sitting to the side is Antonio Ricci. Beaten down
by despair, he has lost the energy to fight. His spirits are lifted, however,
when his name is called out for a job. Invigorated, he damns poverty. His joy
however, is fleeting, employment depends on one condition -- that he owns a
bicycle. To provide for his family, Antonio long ago pawned his bicycle and now,
in one day, he raise the price of the pawn ticket. Not knowing where he will get
the money, he turns to his wife Maria. In their stark home, the only thing left
to pawn is a remnant of her dowry and the family’s last vestige of comfort --
the bed sheets. Bravely, Maria strips the bed and begins to wash the linens. At
the pawn shop, it becomes evident that the Ricci’s misery is not unique. Their
sheets are added to a mountain of small white bundles, and Antonio reclaims his
bicycle from the rack of hundreds like it. Delighted by the prospect of a good
fortune, the couple happily ride away. Antonio picks up his instructions for the
following morning and Maria stops by to see Signora Santona, a medium who
predicted that Antonio would find a job. He gently scolds his wife for her
superstitions, but Maria holds firm to her belief in the woman’s psychic
ability. In a series intermittent domestic scenes, Antonio is portrayed as a
loving husband and an understanding father. His warmth belies the
stereotypically "macho" Latin male. He helps his wife carry heavy
buckets of water and engages his young son Bruno as a reliable helper, and
trusted him with the preparation of the cherished bicycle for the first day’s
work. Hired as a billposter, Antonio was required to affix looming images of

Rita Hayworth to the gray and ancient walls of Rome; ironically, he juxtaposes

Hollywood’s glamorous world vision to the stark realties of post-War Europe.

While Antonio struggles to smooth out the lumps under the advertisement, a thief
slips up behind him and steals his bicycle. Antonio chases him in vain, loses
him in the rush of the mid-morning traffic. Thus begins an unrelenting three day
search for his stolen bicycle. Accompanied by Bruno, Antonio combs Rome to
recover his property, which has come to represent both his livelihood and any
hope for a prosperous future. The police are of no help; they cannot be bothered
with such a trivial case. Enlisting friends, Antonio and his son search the open
air markets where stolen goods are dismantled and sold, for a trace of evidence.

In a masterful montage of human faces and bicycle parts -- frames, tires, seats,
horns, and so on, De Sica contrasts the world’s apparent abundance with

Antonio’s desperate need. The camera takes Antonio’s point of view, panning
right to left, it seeks hopelessly for a "needle in a haystack." While
waiting for a rain storm to clear Antonio spots the thief talking with an old
man. Again, he chases but loses the thief, and follows the old man into a
church, which is offering food and a shave to those want those services.

Commenting on the role of the Catholic Church in post-War Italy, De Sica
interrupts the mass with Antonio’s interrogation of the old man. As the
congregation prays, that their souls be purified and their spirits soothed on
their paths of sorrow and privation, Antonio demands the criminal’s address.

The old man is oblivious to both and only wants to know what he will be given to
eat. De Sica’s evaluation of the Catholic Church is clear. In a world in which
the recovery of a bicycle stands between prosperity and starvation, a priest’s
promise of heaven has lost his power to comfort the poor. Sanctuaries have
become soup kitchens, where well dressed women herd the parishioners like sheep,
and lawyers serve as barbers and leads the litany. While the bourgeoisie must
seduce the power to Mass, Roman women line up to