My third Vittorio De Sica film and the precursor of Neo-realism had gifted another moving humanitarian document in the early years of his career which later flourished in full bloom with ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and ‘Umberto D’. It tells another simple tale in an effective way. It examines the world and affairs of adults with focus on dysfunctional family through six or seven years old boy named Prico. His mother’s affair made her left the home and the poor boy becomes the unwanted guest for every blood relative. Everybody is busy with their own mundane affairs and the boy is a new burden for them. In the first half the child shuffled like a shuttle cock from one relative’s house to other until once again her mommy dear returns. But her affair is yet not over and innocent boy kept witnessing her in compromising moments until she eloped once again leaving the boy’s innocent consciousness a permanent blow.
De Sica & his cameraman has captured the film from the point of view of Prico and it works so effectively for the audience in the entire film. There are frames where the inner reality of child’s mind runs parallel to external reality of train. Like many of his films it raises many pertinent questions about the impressions made on his psychology in the period which will keep haunting him even while becoming an adult. What will happen to the boy who’d seen his mom in a compromising position with the stranger? How he will survive in the world where the gossip mongerer about her mother lives the very next door? How he will deal with the existential unwantedness of the world around? De Sica so effectively captured Prico as the central protagonist here; his use of child characters in cinema is really blessed gift. How can we forget the Bruno in ‘Bicycle Thieves’!
There are many signature De Sica moments came in the second half. One of the most emotionally heartbreaking one where the father is asking the boy about her mother; it’s an unwanted truth the child wanted to hide and the father wanted to know. De Sica had summed it up all with the close-ups and moving facial expressions. The other in one where the child on scaffolding stairs kept shouting his non-responding father during separation after his boarding admission. But the most effective and unforgettable one comes as full stop of the film and it works as ellipsis that made my eyes wet. I would rather prefer not explain it to spoil this touchstone. The Neo-Realist eyes mirrored the heartbreaking world where all adults love pursuing hollow mundane pleasures keeping the values and morality on back stage.
Before sum it up, must to say that with this film began the formation one of the legendary director-screenplay writer combinations in the History of Cinema and it ignited a flame of Neo-Realist cinema that brought some of the most powerful and unparalleled human documents to the world of cinema. Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini are complimentary to each other who gifted us some of the most moving films ever made and it will keep moving the audience till eternity of humanity.