The Bicycle Thief and Weekend both are examples of films that fall under the social context category. Both films are examples of film movements that arose in Europe after World War II. The Bicycle Thief, directed by Vittorio de Sica, is known for being under the influence of the movement called Italian Neorealism. This genre focused on the poor class and the effects of the Second World War had on the society of Italy. Weekend, directed by Jean Luc Godard, is a French new wave film. In this particular movement, the upper class is made fun but also points out what is wrong with society. Both of these films can be compared to one another but they also have their differences. The Bicycle Thief is a film about a dad who has been unemployed for a couple years and gets the chance to work but only if he has a bike. The bike that he purchased gets stolen and that’s when his story starts. The dad looks for the bike around the city with his son. They encounter various situations that would put anyone into thought. The moving part of this film comes about at the end where the son witnesses his own father fall to the pressure of society. This film illustrates how people that were a part of the lower class had to live. On the other hand, Weekend is a film that the complete opposite. It’s about a couple who want to kill each other for money. They go around the French countryside to pick up a relative. All the while, death can be seen at every corner. The two main characters, both part of the bourgeoisie, are not content. They are always bickering and do not fully understand the world around them. They are only worried about what happens to them and their money. This film is a completely different take on society in Europe but it does have similarities to The Bicycle Thief. These films do not follow under the Hollywood category. One of the reasons why that is, is because they are not made for entertainment, as most films at that time were made for. These films express feelings from many people. They demonstrate many facets of life during that time. The films portray the discontent and irregularities with the government without blaming them.
The French New Wave was a “movement that shot through with youthful exuberance and a brisk reinvigoration of the filmmaking process”. This movement had opened up many avenues for directors to make movies. They were more artistic about the way the films were made. It was a new way to make a film. It got rid of the traditional way making films in regards to Hollywood film. Jean Luc Godard was an artist. His films were political as it can be seen in Weekend. For Godard, his films consisted of alienation and intertextuality. Goddard wanted to make the audience feel alienated. He did not want the audience to feel a connection or draw towards the characters. In the scene where Corrine was speaking to her therapist, the audience was put at a distance. There was no relating to her character. That type of scene is supposed to elicit an erotic response from the audience but instead it distances the them. Instead of wanting the audience to relate or connect to the characters, Goddard wanted the audience to connect with the topics and themes. He rather the audiences focus on the intellectual aspect of the film. He wants them to focus on the speeches being made. This brings us to Godard being political. He was a filmmaking activist. His films tend to express thoughts about political situations going on. This film presents the bourgeoisie and the lower class. A class conflict can be seen between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this case it was Corinne and Rolland against everyone else. Rolland and Corinne didn’t care about anyone but themselves. They only cared about the materialistic things which are shown throughout the film. One scene in particular when Corinne could have potentially died in a car fire, but was screaming over her Hermes handbag. This goes to show her selfishness. “Like a venomous consumer id, obsessed with clothes and cars and cash, they treat every stranger as an obstacle or an opportunity.” This describes Rolland and Corinne because that exactly what they did. Anyone could have died in that situation yet she cries over her handbag. The class war can be seen here. On one end you have the rich while on the other you have the poor. Overall, Weekend demonstrates that it’s not a typical Hollywood movie. This film doesn’t follow the conventions of a Hollywood film. First, it alienates its audience and secondly, it isn’t fantasy. As said earlier, Hollywood films tend to rely on fantasy storylines. Weekend and most other French new wave film go against the norms.
Italian neorealism tells the story of various people. This movement, started in Italy, depicts the real lives of people after World War II. It illustrates the effect World War II had on society in Italy. A few main points of Italian neorealism are the reality of life and everyday life of everyday people. It’s meant to capture how people live but mostly how poor people live. No gimmicks, no fantasy, no lies. These neorealism films forget everything but the story. The main focus is on the story. This can be seen in The Bicycle Thief. This film tells the story of a family that is struggling to live after World War II. The only way Antonio’s family can live is through a bike. Since the bike got stolen, their lives are on the line. This is a kind of story that needs to be told. People lived like this and the Italian Neorealist movement made it seen. It depicts the struggles of living through such an awful time. This movement was not relying on Hollywood. Rather, it was distancing itself from the Hollywood norms. They focus on a fantasy being told in this film, rather than a real life story. That is what differentiates Hollywood movies from neorealist movies. In The Bicycle Thief, it can be seen that Antonio will go to any lengths to get his bike back. The bike was his only way of survival. “Likewise, the choice of a bicycle as the key object in the drama is characteristic both of Italian urban life and of a period when mechanical means of transportation were still rare and expensive…situating the event in political and social history in a given place at a given time.” This shows that this bike, though a simple object, decides the fate of the family. It describes the type of situation the family is in. Throughout the whole journey, his son is along with him. One scene in particular shows how society was in those days. Antonio and Bruno ate at a restaurant that was for wealthy people. They were treated horribly and Bruno was subjected to this. He was trying to act like the people that had money. He didn’t know why his father did not have enough money. He didn’t know why he couldn’t eat the way the wealthy families did. The rich kids were eating everything they wanted. They had good posture and clothes. Bruno, on the other hand, had on raggedy clothes and did not know how to eat with a fork and knife. These clear distinctions were seen between classes. The waiter that attended Antonio offered a half bottle of wine instead of a full bottle. This shows that even society treated people differently based on money and class. This was the reality of their lives. Nothing was going to change. The difference between the upper class and lower class were clearly seen. “For a moment, Antonio can even pretend not to worry, but the multiple servings arriving at the table next to them leave no room for illusion as to the effective implications of his trivial loss. It is a question of relative, and stable, prosperity, but also of dignity as a father and a citizen, that leads the dispossessed bill-poster to the self-destructive attempt at redressing social injustice.” Antonio saw the differences due to the separation of classes. One way these Italian neorealist films were distanced from Hollywood films was that they didn’t focus on style. De Sica focused more on the story itself than the actors or equipment. This movie was simple but that didn’t reflect on the film itself. The film relied on the story and not the fancy camera work and actors. The whole film was shot in a real city. It was not a stage. It was all real which adds onto the effect of real life situations.
The similarities between both films are plenty but they are strong. The first similarity between both films is that they are both going against traditional Hollywood films. These traditional films focus on style, acting, scenery, and on a dream plotline. They are in a fantasy. Both The Bicycle Thief and Weekend pride themselves on the storyline and the intellectual response. Both films distance themselves from the conventional Hollywood norms. They portray people in regular situations. They relayed the feelings of people after the World War. At that point, many people were affected by the war. It was good to know that filmmakers were illustrating what was going on. They were putting reality on a screen rather than a fantasy written by screenwriters. Another similarity of that they both present life after World War II. More specifically, they present the differences between classes. In The Bicycle Thief, the upper class always had the nicer things and was allowed to look down on the lower class. Antonio had to work for little money and Bruno didn’t realize this. In Weekend, the differences between classes were seen but in this case, the audience was getting the perspective of the bourgeoisie. The audience was getting to know how the upper class looked at things and how they went about certain situations. This can be seen when Rolland keeps on getting jackets off of people. These people are dead yet that is of no importance to Rolland. He doesn’t care. He just takes the jacket off of the people that are dead and puts it on. This shows how the upper class thought and especially how they acted in these types of situations.
Although there are similarities, there are also differences. In Weekend, Godard wanted to alienate the audience from the actual characters. He rather have not wanted the viewers to connect to the characters. He wanted the audience to have an intellectual response rather than focus on the style of the film. It was hard to connect to the characters because of all the barriers that were put. For example, the whole film was exaggerated. This was a way the audience couldn’t fully connect to the film. The deaths were not real and that could be clearly seen. There either was a lot of blood or a lack of it which was seen as not realistic. The movie was just not able to connect to the audience. In opposition, The Bicycle Thief connected to the audience. Unlike Weekend, the audience was able to connect to the characters and the story. This film was depicting real life in which people can connect to. Relationships can be formed when watching this. Many people may be able to relate to Antonio and his situation. This is why the audience is attracted to this film. There are no gimmicks but the telling a true story that happened to a lot of people after the Second World War.
In conclusion, The Bicycle Thief and Weekend both go against the grain. They distance themselves from the Hollywood conventional norms for various reasons. Each movement that the films are based in have their own aspects that complete the films. These films were not made for entertainment unlike Hollywood movies. They told stories and expressed the situations of many people after the world war. While all this is happening, the audience is either being pushed away for being pulled in. the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism added reality and purpose to the films. The films had a specific purpose and that was to tell a story. The point of the films was to get across a point that would affect the audience. Both movements are different. The French New Wave dismisses Hollywood and alienates the audience. These movies focus on story and getting a point across rather than the style though style does factor in the film. Italian Neorealism illustrates real life and its struggles and hardships. This is seen in The Bicycle Thief.
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