The film that changed my life: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica (1948)

I didn't see Bicycle Thieves in its entirety until recently – only snippets here and there. But it was projected on Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard a couple of years ago, which really gave me a coherent grasp of the full story. I immediately bought tickets to see it again the next day.

After several years of unemployment, Lamberto Maggiorani's Antonio finds a job tacking up movie posters round Rome – a job for which he needs a bicycle. His wife sells all their bed linen and buys him a bike which is promptly stolen. After a long and fruitless hunt for the thief, a desperate Antonio resolves to steal a bike for himself. He gets caught. The shattering last scene will always stay with me: a weeping Antonio walking through crowds with the police as his son looks on. It shows a heartbreaking loss of innocence.

I love the film for all its thematic undercurrents and subcultures. Ideas around the church, morality and war – not to mention the hangover from a fascist regime – bubble away beneath the surface of the story. The battle between good and evil (and, indeed, what makes a person good or evil) is perfectly pitched.

It's also staggeringly well shot. In particular I remember the crushing scene in the rain, which captures the real misery of rain that so many film-makers have since tried to invoke.

Bicycle Thieves now influences how I see other stories. I suppose I've started to measure other films and scripts against it. Thinking about it, before seeing this film I perhaps didn't look for themes as much; I previously might have looked for good characters and a compelling story. But Bicycle Thieves taught me that a strong reliance on themes can enrich a narrative. I think about the film a lot – it's certainly enhanced my life and I like the idea of emulating some of its qualities in my future roles.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in The Shadow Line on BBC2, starting 5 May

Contributor

Interview by Mina Holland

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Locked Down review – Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor are suitably trapped
Hathaway and Ejiofor play a couple pushed to breaking point by lockdown in this disappointing pandemic drama

Wendy Ide

14, Mar, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
McG: the film that changed my life
The director of This Means War tells Natalie Woolman how the sadness of The Graduate has haunted him his entire life

Interview by Natalie Woolman

04, Mar, 2012 @12:07 AM

Article image
The film that changed my life: Gareth Edwards

Monsters director Gareth Edwards tells Jessica Hopkins about the magic of the original space opera

Interview by Jessica Hopkins

27, Feb, 2011 @12:04 AM

Article image
The film that changed my life: Neil Marshall
Director Neil Marshall tells Jennifer Agg how Indiana Jones set him on the road to making movies

Jennifer Agg

14, Aug, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
The film that changed my life: Kevin Macdonald

Director Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void) talks to Mina Holland about the power of 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line

Mina Holland

11, Jun, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
Joss Whedon: the film that changed my life

Screenwriter and director Joss Whedon tells Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy how Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind made him an existentialist

Interview by Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy

14, Apr, 2012 @11:03 PM

Article image
The film that changed my life: Stephen Merchant
Actor and writer Stephen Merchant tells Jessica Hopkins why Billy Wilder's The Apartment is the prototype romantic comedy

Jessica Hopkins

28, Aug, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
The film that changed my life: David Leland
The director and writer talks to Jessica Hopkins about Elephant, a sparse but powerful film about the Troubles in Northern Ireland

Interview by Jessica Hopkins

13, Aug, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
The film that changed my life: Jean Reno
Jean Reno, star of 22 Bullets, tells Tom Lamont why American Graffiti is his seminal movie

Interview by Tom Lamont

04, Sep, 2010 @11:06 PM

Article image
The film that changed my life: Terry Gillam

Terry Gilliam on why watching Kubrick's world war one classic made him want to be a film director

Interview by Jessica Hopkins

13, Mar, 2011 @12:04 AM