Monday, June 05, 2006

Bicycle Thieves: Plight of Poor

Thanks to Kathmandu Film Society (and to journo friend Girish Giri who asked me to join) for screening the much appreciated art movie Bicycle Thieves (1948) directed by Vittorio De Sica.

Foreigners and natives packed the hall at Nepal Tourism Board, Bhrikutimandap. First 30 seconds of the screening were disastrous owing to the poor quality of the film. But as it started audiences were all gripped. Here's a primer:

Antonio (Lamberto Maggiova), a working class Italian, as a breadwinner of his family is finding hard to manage two square meals a day. When he gets a daily wage job as a bill-sticker which has a pre-condition that he must own a bicycle, his wife sells wedding sheets and purchase the bike. But, his sweet dream soon turn sour when the bike is theft.

Most of the movie dwells upon his desperate search for the bicycle. In one of the most moving scenes, his amiable and always obedient son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) disappears from seaside. He sees a crowd looking at the sea. A boy has drowned in the sea and people are rescuing him. Antonio almost believes that it is his son. But, to his utter delight, Bruno turns up in the other direction. Then suddenly, he starts loving him, treats him in a restaurant and cares him a lot.

Everyone was so moved in the hall that no one moved. One sentence uttered by Antonio to console his son during the bicycle quest touched me: "Everything has answers except death." In another scene as Antonio helplessly watches a bunch of bicycles parked and one in a deserted corner, he becomes restless. My documentary maker friend Girish remarked that the scene was superb. Finally, after abusing an innocent chap who goes into epileptic feat after the blame and troubling an old man, he steals the bicycle. But, he is caught immediately. Ironically, this time, people rush to catch him whereas when his bike was stolen, he was chasing alone. The kind-hearted owner forgives him and the movie ends in a pessimistic note, Antonio, his lovely son and dedicated wife Maria are left to struggle in a hostile world.

The post Second World War movie that superbly depicted Neo Realism seems to have an eerie echo of present Nepal. However, I felt lucky remembering my own bike parked outside, albeit worrying theere might be a thief lurking nearby. I heard that Indian filmmaker Styajit Ray was inspired by this movie. When I came out of the hall, I wondered if the child artist Enzo is still alive.

Note: For movie lovers, Society is screening Seven Samurai in July 16 at 5:30 pm and Eight and Half in Aug 20 at 5:30 pm at Nepal Tourism Board.


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Keshav Thapa said...

Nice pics man! Your Tihar eve must have been wonderful.

_ Keshav