The prolific Italian film director Vittorio De Sica has left a lasting impression on the art of cinema. His work in the film industry has seen him take on many roles, and his 1948 film Bicycle Thieves is still regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, due to its simplistic story, authentic characters and heart-wrenching depiction of Italy’s city life. However, De Sica’s filmmaking spans generations, and a perhaps lesser known but just as worthwhile creation is Miracle in Milan.
Miracle in Milan is a more uplifting social commentary than the previous Bicycle Thieves, and is told with a nod to the fairytale. The film tells the story of orphaned Toto (Golisano) who is raised by a kind old lady, Lolotta (Emma Gramatica), and then spends the rest of his childhood in an orphanage after her death. Once he reaches adulthood and is sent out into the city from the orphanage, the young Toto finds himself in a world obsessed with class and where each person is intentionally isolated from those around them. It is his choice to join the lower classes of Italy’s society, where he builds his own town and where every inhabitant is known by name.
De Sica’s film highlights many issues with modern societies which have only grown deeper over the last sixty years. Watching Toto’s integration into a city where money and power are all that matter is a common theme, but on the other hand De Sica’s execution is not. There is no negative point which is thrust into the face of the audience, and instead the issues of class, race, money and power are all explored through perhaps only in one line of dialogue or a simple gesture. His comment about race is particularly inspired.
For this reason, Miracle in Milan is real joy to experience and will most often have its audience smiling rather straining for understanding or meaning. The film’s score, created by Alessandro Cicognini, compliments Toto’s journey by continuously providing the audience with a sound which emphasises his excitement at what each day could hold. The soundtrack to the film also encourages the audience to join Toto in his quest and encourages everyone involved to never give up hope. The magic sequences which follow later in the film seem possible due to Toto’s sheer positivity and determination. The faith both the characters and the audience find in his mindset is impenetrable.
What stays with you after watching Miracle in Milan is the importance of community. Toto is a child who had no one but is taken in by the kindest of strangers. His life is spent surrounded by strangers who he endeavours to make his own family. Watching him move from his spectacular shantytown to the vast stone buildings of the city proper only further enforces the cold isolation of the modern day. Toto will seduce the audience into yearning for a Kingdom where ‘Good Morning’ really means good morning.
Arrow Films have once again provided a delectably nostalgic treat of a Blu-ray, which includes Rome premiere newsreel footage, interviews with both De Sica and actress Bovo, but as the cherry on top De Sica’s The Roof (Il Tetto, 1956) brought to UK audiences for the first time on DVD in HD print as an inclusion in the deluxe edition. This is a wonderful addition and the image quality of both films is stunningly crisp. For any De Sico or Italian cinema fan, this Blu-ray release is a must have.
Miracle in Milan is released on Blu-ray on 26th March 2012 – order it here.