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Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief

3280 words - 13 pages

Vittorio de Sica's The Bicycle Thief

Since the beginning of its existence as a country, Italy has faced enormous challenges in establishing itself as a unified political and social entity. The geographic, economic, and linguistic differences between its various regions and the artificial manner in which they were amalgamated created a legacy of internal divisions that continues to dominate the country's political climate to this day. Italy's numerous historical fiascoes, such as its disastrous involvement in the two World Wars and the rise of fascism, further escalated the domestic problems that had haunted it since the Risorgimento. At first, the anti-fascist Resistance movement, which dominated the end of World War II, seemed to bring Italy a ray of hope, promising a new era of freedom, reform, and democratic representation. However, this hope was quickly extinguished, as widespread poverty, government corruption, and deep divisions between regions and classes persisted and no true social reform was attained. These harsh conditions were depicted by a group of Italian film directors whose neorealist works have since been celebrated as masterpieces of world cinema. One of the most prominent of these is Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief. This 1948 film discusses the prevalent themes dominating Italy's social and political history, within the context of the unsettlingly poor post-War urban proletariat.

Among the most prominent motifs in Italian politics since the Risorgimento has been a tendency for quasi-action (inaction disguised as action), in the form of transformismo and attendismo. The first of these terms refers to the practice of "assuring the government of an adequate majority in parliament either by a preliminary deal with leaders of the opposition and by then absorbing them into the government as ministers, or by favours granted to deputies in return for support, or by combining both methods" (Procacci 1970: 337). Originally applied to the government of Agostino Depretis in the 1880s, transformismo quickly became equated with any ethically questionable, self-interested actions taken by public officials purely for the sake of staying in office and maintaining power. This often manifested itself in the creation of a smoke screen of reformatory rhetoric intended to satisfy the electorate, without a subsequent introduction of any real reforms. The colonialist manner in which Piedmont annexed the other regions to create a united Italy during the Risorgimento and the divisions inherent in the new kingdom resulted in a "historical compromise" that made any deliberate social change very difficult. Consequently, Italian leaders of the destra storica and sinistra storica (the first two eras of Italian political history) shifted their focus from meaningful governance to the practice of transformismo, permanently shaping the face of Italian political life. The prevailing motto of this practice was captured perfectly in a line from...

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