How are the themes of Dardennes, "The Kid with the Bike," and DeSica's "Bicycle Thieves" alike both in their story and their style?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way in which both films are similar in their style is the unflinching view of reality.  The style with which the Dardennes' Brothers film The Kid with a Bike is through a realistic lens.  It is a Naturalist approach where the mirroring of reality in all of its most brutal forms is evident. The Dardennes' Brothers do not hesitate to depict a realistic world in which pain and suffering are intrinsic to consciousness.  This is similar to the Italian Neorealism style with which De Sica films Bicycle Thieves.  "Difficult moral and economic conditions" dominate the landscape, and De Sica's world emphasize this.  Both films do not hesitate in depicting a reality in which there is an emphasis in the struggle of being human.  This struggle occupies both external and internal notions of reality.

This style establishes similar themes in both films.  One shared theme is the struggle for material prosperity. Cyril is not born of wealth.  While Cyril does what he can to make money, he suffers with his father's morally impoverished condition.  Cyril makes little money and tries to use it to appeal to his father.  Yet, in the end, Cyril recognizes that his own lack of material prosperity complicates his life.  It adds further challenge to something that is already difficult. Cyril's economic challenges help to define his characterization and the advancement of the film's plot. In much the same way, Antonio struggles with economic reality.  While Antonio does not suffer from the emotional poverty that Cyril endures, his entire being is besieged with needing to battle poverty.  His wife must pawn her beloved dowry sheets in order to afford purchasing the bicycle for his work, something that will be stolen from him.  Antonio's poverty and Cyril's experience with financial hardship both help to enhance the challenge of both narratives.

Another theme that both films share is the resilient nature of human beings.  Both Cyril and Antonio endure so much in way of hardship and suffering.  Abandonment, rejection, poverty, and struggling to do right are all presented as integral part of both stories.  The ending to both films reflect how the human being is not defined by these challenges, but rather in their response to them.  Cyril walks ahead, recognizing that there is a "need to move on with his life."  At the same time, Antonio takes his son's hand as they both "disappear in the crowd."  In each setting, the human being must endure a challenging condition of being in the world.  It is in this regard where a thematic statement regarding what it means to be human is evident.

Finally, I think that the theme of what it means to be an outsider is a significant element within both films.  Both Cyril and Antonio are outsiders. They experience what it means to live life on the peripheral edge of consciousness. Neither one possesses traits of power and the ability to exercise full autonomy in their world.  Through both depictions, the world and voice of the outsider is echoed.  The plight of the outsider in society is the primary focus of both films, bringing these voices from margin to center.  The exploration of this thematic dynamic is of critical importance to both films.