Italian Neo-realism emerged after the end of the Second World War. It was a direct reaction to the changing social and economic climate in Italy, characterised by a focus on the everyday lives of ordinary people. Amongst The major players in the movement was Vittorio De Sica. His film Bicycle Thieves became the most iconic of the era. Whilst nowhere near as well-known, Umberto D remains a powerful and moving film.
Umberto D. Ferrari (Carlo Battisti), a retired government worker, is struggling to make ends meet due to the pittance he gets for a pension. This has led to him going into arears on his rent and his landlady (Lina Gennari) now wants to kick him out. His only friends are a maid (Maria Pia Casilio) and his dog Fiike. As his eviction gets ever closer, Umberto begins to become increasingly desperate. Stuck in a situation he can’t seem to escape.
Umberto D is a remarkable film. Especially considering De Sica used mostly non-professional actors (most notably Battisti himself). It’s a story of a man desperately trying to retain his dignity whilst all around him refuse to help. Indeed, it’s Battisti who makes the film. He is the epitome of quiet sadness. A man wrestling with his fate, determined to find a solution. Umberto D is a powerful and heart-wrenching drama. It’s a work of beauty and deserves to be appreciated by a new generation.
Umberto D is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Cult Films on Monday 24 April.