This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Vito’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
A profound masterpiece. On my fourth watch, I love it all the more, and I have an entirely new interpretation.
On my first watch, I was entranced simply by the (to me) simple story it told: an honest working man gets his bike stolen, in desperate times, and even a good man can do the wrong thing if he's desperate enough. Beautiful!
On my second watch, I thought a bit lager-- the clear comments on reality, the way it makes you empathise with Antonio, not through manipulation but through sheer honesty.
On my third watch, I saw this constant escalation of desperation. It starts out small, but then he keeps getting more desperate (slaps his son... Follows a guy into church... Confronts/attacks a guy in the street... Death threats... And the ultimate act of desperation at the end).
This watch, I saw something even completely else entirely. Stunned how I only noticed it now, and I'm not sure if this interpretation was intended, but it all makes sense for me. The main thing I noticed, this time, is how inherently flawed our protagonist is.
Watch it again: see how weak and pathetic he is, really. How much of his misfortune is because of him, and how he ultimately would have been doomed anyway. Not everything is his fault, of course, but many of the problems in this film can be attributed to him. I'll give a few examples of his flaws:
- At the every beginning, when all the man are looking for work, where do we find Antonio? He's sitting on his ass out of earshot.
- Shortly after, he walks along complaining. His wife is actually carrying the heavy shit.
- Again, later: who ultimately makes the sacrifice to get a bicycle. His wife: it's her initiative, they're her linens that he pawns. He was just moping around.
- A key scene: I've watched this movie with three different people now, and all of them said the guy was stupid early on in the movie when they went to the charlatan lady and he leaves his bike unattended for a moment. So stupid! It could so easily be stolen, they all yell! I see now how very intentional this scene was. Not in a way of creating tension, because we all expect the bike to get stolen, but because it points to a major flaw in Antonio's character, and the inevitability of his demise: he irreponsibily leaves his bicycle in the street to be watched by someone he doesn't even know. This is a perfect opportunity fot it to be stolen, but it isn't.
- It's stolen later in a series of events that aren't really his fault, but that previous scene is an indicator that, as a result of his incompetence, he would have lost his bicycle and his job.
- A parallel from these cenes: the moment where he loses his son and we think he might be drowning, just like that scene where he leaves his bike unattended, almost foreshadows his eventual loss of his son. Not the actual death of his son, do mind, but the loss of his son's respect at the end. This has slowly been built up to the entire film, with another key scene being the moment he slaps his son.
- Another small example: when it starts raining and the son slips, he doesn't even notice or pick him up. When he thinks he sees a guy with his bike, he just starts running, not even paying attention to his son.
THIS is what makes the movie truly special for me. We see beyond his incompetence, his irresponsibility. Each watch, I still pity him.
It's a brilliant film.