In watching the 1001 movies in order, I will admit that, every once in a while, you come across a film that makes you ask why anyone would film it. Did the director hate other human beings? Did he belong to some sect that believes that humanity can only be saved it it falls into the deepest pit of utter despair?
The answers are never forthcoming, but all I can say is that Vittorio de Sica‘s Ladri de Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) is one of those films. It took me a couple of days to drag myself out of bed after watching it (OK, I’m exaggerating, but not all that much).
An Italian realist film in the mold of Roma, Citta Aperta, it has little of that film’s historical interest. This one does have some interesting shots of postwar Rome, and looks at the lives of its citizens, but that’s about it.
What it does have, unfortunately, is melodrama by the trowel-load. Heaping one “woe is me” cliché onto the next, it meanders from suffering to suffering until it ends with a walk-away scene lifted straight from The Little Tramp. Subtle, this thing was not.
Don’t believe me? Let’s glance at the checklist. Father who needs a job to support his young family? Check. Supportive wife who does everything she can to help, but is about to fly apart under the strain? Check. Young boy who puts a brave face on everything, both the stuff he understands and the stuff he doesn’t, and also helps to support the family by working 12 hours at a service station? Check. Indifferent world that crushes everyone under its wheels? Oh, yeah.
Critics, of course, loved it. They called it the best movie ever, and have been calling it one of the best since (which scares me a bit, because the fact that it lost first place must mean there’s something even more depressing out there). They called it a very adult movie (which I kind of agree with; kids would be ruined by it forever) and also the most communist movie ever (which is interesting since communism is something more associated with idealistic adolescents than with adults).
Anyway, unless you’re planning to be a film director, give this one a miss and do something less depressing.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose debut novel, Siege, has garnered good reviews (and one notable terrible review). You can check it out here.