The hallmark of the Italian neorealism genre is to take the ordinary and evoke feelings to believe in the meaning of our lives as they are, rather than create belief in our fantasized endings to stories. The film offers a poignant example of the every day sacredness that Fr Dennis so often tried to share with us in film and poetry.
The film director, Vittorio DeSica, once again went with “real” people, rather than actors — in fact, one potential funder wanted Cary Grant to play the lead character, the father/husband, Antonio Ricci. Instead, a working man and a newspaper boy from the Rome streets, both amateurs, were cast as the father-son combination to great effect. The actor who played the wife/mom worked in the arts, though she also acted in three films total. The young boy grew up to be a math teacher!
You may recall in 2014, we watched Fellini’s LA STRADA (1954), which broke from the strict social reality foundation of Italian neorealism. THE BICYCLE THIEF was filmed and released in 1948, closer to the consequences of WWII and hews more tightly to the characteristics of the genre. Fellini’s creativity tended to cross, blend, and defy genres.
I’ll offer my thoughts below on some of my favorite or standout moments of Eucharist, reconciliation, and more couched in the everyday affairs of a struggling Italian family.