Essay on the Collapse of Communism and the Dissection of Bicycle Thieves Film

Published: 2021/11/22
Number of words: 1434


The 1991 Soviet Union disintegration and Communist system dissolution occurred over twenty years ago, and still, there is no agreement over the origin and ramifications of these notable events. Regarding causes, it is easy to assume the collapse was ‘over-determined,’ with a myriad of dynamics. The Soviet Union and Communism collapse heightened transition and disruption in the Eastern Europe region in the 1990s. Every state in the area was led under a rule that was communist. Russian border countries formed part of the Soviet Union. In contrast, countries that were not affiliated to the Union were largely swayed by its leading position in the region. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, nations bordering Russia sought self-rule and commenced incorporation into the European Union. Moldavia acquired a new name and was later called Moldova. Some nations such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia separated into different countries and owing to many populations, which were diverse ethnically organized nation-states. Republic of Slovakia and the Czech Republic were the products of a peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, Yugoslavia did not go down that route (Hassner 6).

Many political borders in Eastern Europe mimic boundaries that are ethnically influenced. Regions at some point in their history bore a resemblance to nation-states. Conceptually, Romanians lived in Romania and Hungarians in Hungary and so on. Ethnic Minorities found at border points make the only handful to be genuine nation-states. Governments granted democratic rights such as national elections under Communist tyrants or repressive states before 1991. Communism failure coincided with reforms in the economic sector that saw a shift from central planning to open markets in different countries. In regards to central planning, products which were produced and their quantity was dictated by the government. Corporate businesses of the west and private capitalism were invited under open markets.

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Amendments in Eastern Europe in the 1990s (Steele 17)

  1. Soviet Union European Union
  2. Central planning Open Markets
  3. Government Control Private Citizen
  4. Communism Democracy

Two decades have passed, but debate on the collapse of Communism rages on, and from the look of things, it is far from over. At the center of the contest is the question ‘why.’ The immediate reasons are outlined below.

  1. Economic viability was at the heart of the problems faced by the systems. Towards the end of 1980, economic strife was evident, characterized by low standards of living and waning commercial growth rates. These were accompanied by low productivity, lack of economic competitiveness, investment rates, and novelty. Only a handful of industries and sectors were competitive globally.
  2. The bone of contention in the political arena was the endeavor of implementing some aspects of democracy in the commune. This involved the merging of legislative and executive duties and the lack of power separation. Democracy in the commune presumed the interests of the sovereign people and the political structures in the commune were the same. Consequently, this denied the space for pluralism in politics or socialist contestation forms.
  3. One of the critical reasons for the fall of the systems was ideological exhaustion. Simply, the belief of ideal communist building had dissipated, and people were not enthusiastic about sacrificing for ambitions of Soviet ‘internationalist’ abroad. Had the leaders accepted ideas brought forth as a new way of looking at things rather than a contest, the Soviet Union and Communism would be in existence today as history would have taken a new trajectory (Hale 165).


Bicycle thieves film is the story of Antonio, a man in post-world war two in Italy, who receives a job offer. He needs a bicycle to perform it, and when he finally gets one, it is stolen, and Antonio and his son Bruno must scour the city to recover it. Bicycle thieves movie is one of the well-known examples of Italian neo-realism. Understanding neo-realism requires historical context. Art sometimes springs up from influence from other art forms or masterpieces from certain new prodigies in the new fields. However, art is also cultural and reflects attitudes of its time, recent history, and tragedy. To that end, looking at Italy during the period of world war two, it was expanding its territory through military might before even the beginning of world war two in 1939. Italy under Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, actually forcibly colonized Ethiopia in a war that lasted between 1935 and 1936. Italy also played a role in supporting nationalists in the Spanish civil war in 1936 in the hope of gaining favor with the victors. Italy waited until 1940 before declaring war on Great Britain and France. During the war, Italy lost almost 300,000 soldiers and over 150,000 civilians.

War has a habit of influencing art and philosophy. For the former, at least in Italy, the war generated neo-realism. Italians wondered about their national identity and who they were as people. Because of these subjective attitudes, this film style flourished. Italian neo-realism firstly focused on the poor, the working class who are trying to survive in post-war Italy. It was generally filmed on location in real cities, and the style insisted on non-professional actors, real people. In short, Italian neo-realism is the attempt to set aside any self-glorification or decadence and, through the narrative and technique, create something tangible and not a documentary but a fictional story without falsehoods and storybook endings, a real window into the soul of Italy. Vittoria de Sica once said that neo-realism is not meant to be a reality, but reality filtered through poetry.

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In the Bicycle Thieves film, everything is shot to show the desperation of the workers and the income disparity. Antonio’s job involves posting the posters of the rich and famous. In a scene, he is seen putting up the banner of a famous Hollywood movie star. Antonio, who is struggling desperately to make ends meet and going great lengths just to get a bicycle has a job in which he hangs up the posters of the glamorous stars. The imagery here is striking. The description lets us know that the glamour of Hollywood in the 1940s is an illusion. On the other hand, the neo-realism we see in the film is a closer representation of the real world. The economic division is shown again in a scene as Antonio and his son, Bruno, eat inexpensive food in a restaurant. Meanwhile, a wealthier family sits at the next table. The two families are styled to be opposites. The whole family of the rich folks is there. They can all afford to eat together in a big meal. The son of the wealthy family has his hair curled and well managed, and in comparison, Bruno’s hair has tussled.

The cinematography of the Bicycle Thieves film centers on long static shots. The camera is less of a participant and more like a spy, watching the characters without judgment or romanticizing. Shots in which other citizens of the city are walking by or driving, feel less staged and more natural. Most of the movie was meticulously planned by de Sica and looked natural. There are few close-ups in the film, and usually, we see the entirety of each character in the camera frame or at least two-thirds of them in walking scenes. It gives the impression that they are real people, with real problems and not just props moving around set-pieces. In addition to the film by de Sica helping to revolutionize cinema in its era and usher in a new style, it also employs foreshadowing. Earlier in the movie, Maria hands Antonio the cap he needs for work. She jokes that it looks like that of a police officer. Later in the film, after his bicycle is stolen, Antonio informs the police what happened. But, the police tell him they are powerless to do anything. Antonio is upset and asks if he should solve his case. Police appear numerously in the film, never willing to do anything to help. The film conveys a mistrust of police (“Bicycle Thieves,” 00:00:00-1:29:27).


Hale, Henry E. “Divided we stand: Institutional sources of ethnofederal state survival and collapse.” World politics 56.2 (2004): 165-193.

Hassner, Pierre. “Communism: a coroner’s inquest.” Journal of Democracy 1.4 (1990): 3-6.

Steele, Jonathan. “Twenty years on from the end of empire, Gorbachev looks back.” The Guardian16 17 (2011).

“Bicycle Thieves.” YouTube, uploaded by World’s Classic Movies, 20 February 2020, Retrieved from

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