Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano)

  • Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano)
  • Director: Vittorio de Sica
  • Year: 1951

Between making the two great neorealist films Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D., the team of director Vittorio De Sica and writer Cesare Zavattini produced Miracle in Milan, a magical fantasy about an orphan who becomes involved with a homeless community on the outskirts of Milan. Zavattini's screenplay was based on his own novel, Totò il Buono.

Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano) Miracle in Milan

The film begins with the discovery of baby Totò in a cabbage patch by a whimsical old lady who takes him home and raises him for several years. When she dies, he spends the remainder of his childhood in an orphanage where he grows up into a naïve and ingenuous young man. On leaving the orphanage, his bag is stolen by a tramp whom he subsequently befriends, and he goes to stay with the tramp in a field outside the city. There, he helps the tramps to form a community and build a makeshift town. When the town is threatened by the wealthy landowner, Toto's mother appears to him and grants him magical powers to save the community.

As the tramps build their community in the field, the film poignantly blends elements of comedy, fantasy and social commentary. The plot also feels slightly like a western in places, with Totò as the stranger who comes into town, brings the community up off its knees and then must then hold them together to face a more powerful adversary.

Although the fantastical elements move Miracle in Milan out of the inescapably realistic style of films like Bicycle Thieves, many of the elements are still there. Behind the fantasy, the film is still making a social commentary about poverty, from which the reality may be inescapable even in a fantastical world. The cast is partly composed of real tramps (in one of the extras on the British DVD, De Sica's son remembers how the tramps drank heavily, and would have to be woken up each morning with a bucket of cold water), and Totò was played by the relative newcomer Francesco Golisano. Sadly, Golisano died in a road accident in 1958.

DVD Details

Miracle in Milan has been released in the UK by Arrow Films, on a region 0 (PAL) disc along with brief interviews with De Sica's son and actress Brunella Bovo.The film isn't currently available on DVD in the USA.

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.