Skip to content

Keeping It Neo-Real In Film

March 3, 2012

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette), also known as The Bicycle Thief, by Vittorio De Sica was released in 1948 making it a postwar Italian Neorealist film. In 1948, this filmmaking genre emerged in Italy whose style became depicting the new reality of everyday life after the devastation and destruction caused by World War II. Film noir was the name given to this movement in filmmaking, a term originally coined by French film critics. According to Mast, “noir” was a term that originated from the French Série noire, a collection of crime fiction and detective thrillers.

Poster for the film The Bicycle Thief.

Poster for the film The Bicycle Thief.

This inspired a fresh approach to filmmaking and Italian Neorealism became a film movement. With Bicycle Thieves, showing the “new reality” in Rome captured the rebuilding process occurring after the war.

However as noted by Mast in A Short History of the Movies, it was Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (Roma, città aperta) released in 1945 that became “the unofficial cornerstone of a new movement in Italian cinema.” In this film, a priest is executed at the end because of the church citing with Mussolini’s fascist government.

Poster for the film Battleship Potemkin.

Poster for the film Battleship Potemkin.

Another aspect of Neorealism is casting real people as actors and extras. This was the same approach used in the Russian film Battleship Potemkin co-written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein. However, that was in 1925 and during the silent film era.

Wikipedia writes: “Open City established several of the principles of Neorealism, depicting clearly the struggle of normal Italian people to live from day to day under the extraordinary difficulties of the German occupation of Rome.”

Poster for the film Rome, Open City.

Poster for the film Rome, Open City.

There are additional qualities that make Bicycle Thieves a Neorealist film such as shooting on location, oftentimes in poor neighborhoods. By doing this, the film challenged the way America made movies because Hollywood studio sets provided and guaranteed a very controlled environment for filming. By the same token, Hollywood was doing the opposite with American films by pouring money into their production budgets.

An Italian filmmaker had little options at that time. Film stock itself was scarce. In turn, this became beneficial, as making a Neorealist film did not require the need for studios, sets, wardrobe, lighting, and staff. It was an unconventional approach to filmmaking that the Italians popularized by giving viewers real settings, real backdrops, real people, and real stories of human struggle.

With that in mind, the stories surrounding Italian Neorealist films were always about survival and the basic needs of life. Just like with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as proposed in his 1943 paper on theoretical psychology, a reoccurring theme is just about that: what it takes to survive, and to ultimately be happy.

We see throughout Bicycle Thieves how the protagonist Antonio Ricci. played by Lamberto Maggiorani, struggles to recover a bike with his son, first from a pawnshop and then from a thief, who steals the bike as he cycles around town pasting up Rita Hayworth movie posters.

Film still from The Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica.

Film still from The Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica.

The use of lighting by creating high shadows also plays a role when it comes to Italian Neorealism in films.

This movement lasted from about 1943 to 1950. After Italy began to rebuild itself, the country was ready to see a reflection of their society in a more flourishing and prosperous way. The height of the Italian Neorealism film movement was in 1948, and this is perhaps why Bicycle Thieves resonates so will within the genre.

Wikipedia writes: “Open City established several of the principles of Neorealism, depicting clearly the struggle of normal Italian people to live from day to day under the extraordinary difficulties of the German occupation of Rome.”

There are additional qualities that make The Bicycle Thieves a Neorealist film such as shooting on location, oftentimes in poor neighborhoods. By doing this, this film challenged the way America made movies because Hollywood studio sets guaranteed a very controlled environment.

The use of lighting to create high shadows also plays a role when it comes to the Italian Neorealist filmmaking genre, although Bicycle Thieves was shot primarily outdoors relying on natural lighting.

An Italian filmmaker had little options at that time. Film stock itself was scarce. In turn, this became beneficial, as making a Neorealist film did not require the need for studios, sets, wardrobe, lighting, and staff. Yet, Hollywood was doing the opposite by pouring money into their film productions.

It was this fresh approach to filmmaking that the Italians popularized by giving viewers real settings, real backdrops, real people, and real stories.

After Italy began to rebuild itself, the country was ready to see a flourishing and prosperous reflection of themselves in cinema. The height of the Italian Neorealism film movement was in 1948, and this is perhaps why The Bicycle Thieves resonates so will within the genre.

Film posters photo credits: Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisements

From → Film

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: