Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette)

  • Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette)
  • Director: Vittorio de Sica
  • Year: 1948

A cornerstone of Italian neorealism, Bicycle Thieves deals with the lack of solidarity amongst the working classes in post-war Roman society. It was directed by Vittorio De Sica (Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D.) and based on the novel by Luigi Bartolini.

The Bicycle Thieves, aka Ladri di Biciclette Bicycle Thieves

Unemployed husband and father Antonio Ricci is offered a job putting up posters around Rome, on the condition that he owns a bicycle on which to get around. However, he has already pawned his bicycle, and he's ready to turn down the job offer when his wife sells their bedsheets in order to raise the money to reclaim it. ('We can sleep without sheets, can't we?' she asks.) As a result, Ricci is able to take the job, but he hasn't been working long when his bicycle is stolen by a passer-by. Ricci and his son Bruno spend the rest of the film trying to hunt down the stolen bicycle.

Antonio Ricci is brilliantly played by the amateur actor and factory worker Lamberto Maggiorani, whom De Sica claims to have cast, along with Enzo Staiola, primarily for the style of their walks. Screenwriter Cesare Zavattini frequently collaborated with De Sica, the two of them making numerous films together including Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D and many others.

The film's title was mistranslated in some American releases as The Bicycle Thief, an important difference as De Sica's film is not about an isolated crime but rather about the universal corruption that accompanies desperate poverty. This is demonstrated most effectively in the scene of the theft, where many people show undue interest in the bicycle before it is finally stolen, and in the film's climactic scene.

DVD Details

Bicycle Thieves has been newly released in the USA on a two-disc set as part of the Criterion Collection, with a new transfer and a selection of interviews and documentaries. The UK DVD (region 0) comes with a 55-minute documentary about De Sica, which seems to have been taken from an Italian television program, and an extended and entertaining trailer for Miracle in Milan.

The DVD is also available in the UK as part of the Neo-Realist Collection, along with other classics including Rome, Open City, I Vitelloni and Umberto D.