The Power in our Hand
In the film, The Bicycle Thief also known as Bicycle Thieves, there are many images that help to define the film in terms of narrative and composition. The film as a whole paints a grim picture of the effects of Fascism in the way it shows desperate men fighting for work in the beginning, women lining up to get buckets of water to bathe and clean their clothes, and the desolate landscape of apartment living. However, what I feel this film is really about is pride, the lines of morality, and the extent at which a man will go to care for his family. The image that I found captured these ideas was the one at the very end of the film, after the father has a failed attempt to steal a bicycle, he and his son walk hand in hand as the son cries and the father is humiliated by his desperate action (figure 1).
Often the greatest stories are ones that stretch our moral fabric. They help us, as the audience, understand the delicacy and grey in what we consider to be right or wrong. Bicycle Thief is one of those stories. It asks us, “When is it okay to steal?” Is it okay to steal if families are being starved by their government of basic material needs? Is it okay to steal if someone has stolen from you, even if it is to provide for one’s family? A similar theme is represented in the 2002 film, John Q. The film follows a father that holds a hospital hostage, after finding out that his insurance will not cover his son’s heart transplant. Both of these films beg the question of what drives people to drastic measures to provide for those they love. Their main point is that there exists a grey area, a blur in our moral lines when it comes to our primal instincts vs. our rational behavior. While, both Italian and American culture seem to follow a similar moral order, one built from our rational thought and pseudo-Christian background, films like the one’s above, expand our view of this moral order, awaken our sympathies, and our compassion for universal human behavior. They beg the question, “What exactly are our systems built on?” Are we as evolved and civilized as we think? What would each of us do in either of these circumstances?
After we see the young crying boy clutch his father’s hand, as we have just watched the father steal a bicycle, we feel empathy. I personally also felt sadness and shame for the father, but the one act of the son grabbing his father’s hand, despite all that has transpired, is one of larger emotion. It softens the harshness of the conflict prior and it shows that where there is love, there is forgiveness, kindness, and humanity.
Mast, Gerald & Kawin, Bruce. A Short History of the Movies. 11th Ed. Pearson Education, Inc., 2008. Print
Video viewed in class: The Bicycle Thief