Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (whom Sisif rescued from a train crash when a baby and raised as his daughter), with tragic results. Originally ... See full summary »
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Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (whom Sisif rescued from a train crash when a baby and raised as his daughter), with tragic results. Originally running nine hours, this epic tragedy is notable for the way it foreshadows Gance's later 'Napoleon' in its use of innovative cinematic devices, particularly rapid cutting. Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
French master Abel Gance's 260-minute epic tells the story of Sisif (Severin-Mars), a railroad worker who discovers a young girl named Norma after a horrible train wreck. Sisif takes the girl home to his young son Elie where he plans on raising them as brother and sister. Flash forward several years and Elie (Gabriel de Gravone) has started to fall in love with Norma (Ivy Close) even though he thinks she is his sister. At the same time Sisif has also fallen in love with her, which leads the two men down a road of tragedy. A lot of the epic films released after The Birth of a Nation dealt with epic themes, usually something to do with war, but that's not the case here as you would call this a film that deals in melodrama and character study. It's rather amazing that Gance would try to take this material and push it to over eight hours, which was the original running time. I was a little worried going into this version, running 260-minutes but it turned out to be a great beauty of a film. I really don't think the film ran too long and in fact, the running time goes by quite fast but the only thing I'd question is some of the stuff that we go through two or three times. This includes one character attempting suicide numerous times and I think this could have been handled in a different way. The legendary editing is the main highlight of this film as it goes in a maniac style way. There are numerous edits each second during certain scenes and I'm really not sure if it could be done better even with today's standards. Even though the editing is quite sharp and fast, it never gets in the way of the story trying to be told. Another fascinating aspect is when the main character starts to go blind. The director then turns the visuals on screen to an all white setting to where we're seeing things just like the character who is going blind. the final sequences of the film are quite beautiful and haunting and really puts everything we've seen before it into justice. I think for the most part that the performances are good but I think at times the director would have been wise to bring them down a little bit. Severin-Mars really steals the film as the love struck father who is slowly losing his mind, life and eyes due to the love his has for the girl he raised as his daughter. Close gives the weakest performance of the three but she still handles the screen quite well. La Roue is certainly a demanding film to sit through but at the end of the film I was quite happy to take the ride and this is certainly a film that every film buff should see at least once in their life.
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