Vittorio De Sica’s Neorealist Classic

Vittorio De Sica’s Neorealist Classic

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Arrow Video 

Release date: April 18th 2011
Certificate (UK): 12
Running time: 89 mins [Blu-ray], 85 mins [DVD]
Year of production: 1948

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

To say The Bicycle Thieves is one of the greatest films ever made is to undersell it.

This Italian neorealist classic, based on Luigi Bartolini’s novel and adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini, was directed by Vittorio De Sica and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Bicycle Thieves

It tells the story of family man, Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), who, after a long spell of unemployment, lands a job putting up film posters on billboards. The job requires that he must have a bicycle, but as he’s recently pawned it so his family can eat, he is worried he might not be able to take the job.

Antonio’s wife, Maria (Lianella Carell), decides to sell the family’s linen so they can get the bicycle back, but on his first day of work, it’s stolen.

Desperate to find it before it’s taken apart and sold at the local market, Antonio takes his friends and his young son, Bruno (Enzo Staiola), to help him look for it.

The Bicycle Thieves

For hours Antonio and Bruno search, even in the pouring rain, until the little boy is too tired and hungry to go any further. Eventually, out of frustration, Antonio will make one last attempt to try and get his bicycle back.

Though the actors were not professional, their performances are exceptional. Lamberto Maggiorani’s expressions are those of a man who loves and cares for his family deeply, but The Bicycle Thieveshe’s also a decent man; humble, honest and sensible.

His scenes with Enzo Staiola, who was seven years old at the time, are extraordinary. Chosen for the part specifically because of his walk, Enzo’s presence in the movie verges on magical. Our hearts ache when we see him drenched in a downpour and race when we believe he’s drowned.


  • Feature length audio commentary by Italian Cinema expert Robert Gordon
  • ‘Cesare Zavattini’ a feature length documentary by director Carlo Lizzani
  • ‘Timeless Cinema’, a documentary on Vittorio De Sica
  • Trailer
  • Booklet illustrated with original stills and Lobby Cards
  • Artwork including three original posters and newly commissioned cover

It’s as much a father-son story as it is a comment on post-War Italy, told using the labyrinthine Italian towns as a backdrop with De Sica’s strong visual style. It’s simple, humanistic approach allows for the story to stay with us long after the final frame has faded.

The picture is stunning and I was amazed when I compared it to an old copy I had before.

It’s clear, sharp and filled with detail you would never have seen on any previous VHS or DVD release. As for special features, it’s a nice collection, but in all honesty, it’s the main feature which captures my heart and attention and it’s something I will watch again many more times.

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  1. Yes, I remember this film. I think I can relate to it for my own reasons; in Hungary, the post-war experience lasted long (maybe it still lasts…). My favourite part is the restaurant scene, when father and son dream about a better life and for a short while, they pretend to live it. Like The 400 Blows, this film is for everyone. You don’t need an interest in Italian cinema, neorealism, black and white or anything specific to The Bicycle Thieves. If you are human, you will get it.

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