In Vittorio De Sica's, Bicycle Thief, Pier Paolo Pasolini's,.
Mamma Roma, and Roberto Rossellini's, Rome, Open City, each filmmaker uses humor to evoke emotion and bolster his view about the absurd nature of extreme class distinctions in post WWII Italy. This portrayal is a deviation from the exclusively stark and gloomy expression that is characteristic of a neo-realistic film. This use of comic relief reinforces the display of economic conflict between the classes in De Sica's and Pasolini's films, and political conflict in Rossellini's film.
Vittorio De Sica deviates from his grave and serious expressive strategy of portraying a desolate and devastated country by injecting unexpected bits of humor in the "pizzeria" scene in his film, Bicycle Thief. This helps to reinforce the concept of exaggerated class distinctions and economic conflict in Italy after WWII, a time when poverty and corruption were rampant. He begins early in the movie with a shot of a crowd of people in Rome desperately yelling outside a building in the hope of securing a job. The reality of their hopelessness can be seen through their expressions. The gravity of the film and the sense of deep class division is further demonstrated in the scene at the police station. During the film, the viewer realizes the importance of the bicycle as the sole ray of hope in the protagonist, Antonio Riccio's, life - his only possible means of survival. When the bicycle is lost, the viewer is saddened by the loss but is even more horrified by the police officer's trivialization of it with the comment, " it's only a bike." In the film, Riccio is driven primarily by his poor class status and his economic needs. The film is heartbreaking and a sense of sadness and loss permeates the film. It is through the use of comic relief, however, that the director evokes an even deeper emotional response in the viewer. In the "pizzeria" scene, Riccio arrives with his son, Bruno, at a time when they are tired and hungry, and almost all hope is lost.