Umberto D (1952)
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Writer: Cesare Zavattini
Like many people, seeing animals in peril in films makes me very nervous. In this film Umberto's canine companion Flike finds himself in two such situations: a harsh dog pound and, even sadder, the arms of his beloved owner. Flike's future and his master's are indistinguishable: no one wants them around, nor really care what happens to them. The only exception is Maria, who has her own problems (pregnant and unmarried, with two potential fathers of her baby). These three characters are all powerless: a dog, a retired man on the pension, and a young pregnant girl. They try to help each other, but sadly it is not enough.
I was moved by this film. The previously mentioned dog pound scene was full of uncomfortable suspense and saddness, all presented in De Sica's unsentimental way. Watching a cage of dogs being loaded into the machine that kills them was particularly sad, made even more so by Umberto desperate glances searching for Flike. While the ending appears sweet, it is only a brief moment of happiness in an uncertain future. The Bicycle Thief was perhaps more heartbreaking, but this was more melancholic.