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Stealing a Life
on 17 August 2016
This is a classic of what was called the neo-realist movement which may have had a profound impact on cinema. This particular example is raw in that we see the degradation of some of the people after the war in Rome,many of them struggling in a hand-to-mouth existence. The story is simple, focusing on a father and son,and initially his wife getting to grips with getting a job. By selling the sheets off their beds to a pawnbroker, he is able to buy a bicycle and thus providing himself with the dignity of working to support his family. He and his fellow workers go off on their bikes with their ladders, bill posting
During his first job,after learning the basics of bill posting from a colleague, his bike is stolen by a trio of likely lads. He chases the thief but does not catch him.With his son Bruno, Ricci, the poor put-upon worker, walks all over Rome. He has friends who help him by pointing out what markets deal in stolen items. The bikes were usually broken up and the parts sold separately. Fortunately, Bruno is very smart and more streetwise than his Dad as he has noted the make and the frame number of Ricci's bike. The police cannot help him until he has found the bike although they do help in the search.
The search involves Ricci and Bruno visiting a fake clairvoyant, a restaurant and a mission at which Ricci thinks he has spotted the thief. This mission isn't very helpful when he wants to crash out of the compulsory service to chase the supposed thief. Eventually, the father is involved in a confrontation with the local neighbourhood men and it is Bruno who fetches the police to prevent his father being roughed up. Neighbourhoods protect their own people in spite of the fact that the person concerned was probably the thief. It seemed in this chaotic post-war world, it was everyone for himself.
There are some very bleak scenes in the film, the most heart-rending being father and son being caught in a heavy rainstorm where both get soaked. They are both at the ends of their tethers as life has dealt them a seemingly vicious hand. It might be 'C'est la vie' but a particularly poor one. All through the film, there is hope that Ricci's problem would be resolved and that thought provides the impetus to the narrative. The audience too is pounding those streets relentlessly as Ricci and Bruno never gave up the serch. The film was simple but profound, rather like Everyman trying to find the Kingdom of Heaven with only his Good Deeds by his side. However, this is no 'Miracle in Milan' ; the action is ground out relentlessly and was very far from being a fairy tale or a parable. It was a reflection of 'life' as some knew it.