On Bicycle Thieves by Kenzo Fukuda

We recently watched Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves in Cine CLub with San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers. The film follows Antonio Ricci, a poor father who is desperate to find his stolen bike because otherwise he would not be able to keep his job. The film displays the economic crisis of post-World War II Italy, specifically in Rome, through the eyes of Ricci and also his son Bruno Ricci. This leads to a juxtaposition in the view of their situation, between a father trying to provide for his family and a young boy who is forced to mature due to the circumstances.

At the start of the film, Antonio Ricci is portrayed as prideful, and a man of dignity. This is evident in the scene where he and his wife, Maria Ricci are in a fortune teller’s apartment and Antonio declares that he does not believe there is higher power, especially a sketchy fortune teller. But after his bike is stolen, he slowly begins to lose his pride and dignity because of what that would mean for his family and himself. It would mean failure to his wife, after his she sold their bed sheets to re-buy the bike, and action that showed faith to him. But because of the circumstances and the lack of opportunity, Antonio is forced to betray his own values in gestures of a worrying desperation. This is shown, through the fortune teller again, when Antonio and his son Bruno visit the her after a long afternoon of searching for the bike thief. The fortune teller tells them, “Either, you’ll find it now or you never will,” Antonio acts on these words and becoming a hypocrite to his own claim.

Bruno, on the other hand, is portrayed at the beginning of the film as innocent and oblivious. For example, when Bruno is cleaning the bike, he notices a dent and tells his father. Antonio brushes away his comment saying it will have to make due. Bruno responds by exclaiming that he would have told the man at the pawn shop so he could have it fixed. But what Bruno does not realize is that Antonio does not have time to have the bike fixed, it could cost him his job, and especially if the damage is something that can be managed without the cost of money and time. Later in the film, Bruno’s innocence and obliviousness slowly begin to deteriorate. He begins to realize this in the scene where Antonio takes him to an expensive restaurant out of guilt for hitting him earlier. The table next to them had a wealth family and a boy who was also Bruno’s age. The wealthy boy looks down on the way Bruno is dressed, the way he eats his food, and the way he acts. Bruno begins to realize that his family is not high in social standing. He begins to realize why his father is so desperate to recover the bike and they should not be at this fancy restaurant because the cost of the meal is detrimental to their situation. When Bruno realizes this, he stops eating, only for his father to insist that he finish his food. This is also where Bruno realizes his father is being a bit irresponsible, further shifting their dynamic.

The penultimate sequence that changes the father-son dynamic between the Antonio and Bruno is when Antonio steals someone’s bike out of desperation in front of his son Bruno. Several men catch him before he can get away and they sorely let him go because they did not want to arrest him in front of Bruno. The movie ends with Antonio holding Bruno’s hand for support; Bruno being forced to console his father, something that normally occurs the other way around. This final scene shows Antonio reduced to someone low enough to steal a bike, even though he was out of options. Had he not stolen the bike, he would have held pride and dignity but jobless. But if he successfully stole the bike, he would have job and could maybe scrape together some of his pride later. He was willing to sacrifice his own state of being to feed his family. In a time of survival, Antonio chose the short-term over long-term. Bruno’s innocence was lost in this entire ordeal. Witnessing his father become a thief right in front of him shattered any sense of good and bad morality that is easy to believe as a child. By the end of the film, Bruno is no longer a child because he is forced to carry this burden that his father failed to do.

Kenzo Fukuda, class of 2020

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