15 user 16 critic

The Wheel (1923)

La roue (original title)
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 »




On Disc

at Amazon

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

One of the first feminist movies, The Smiling Madame Beudet is the story of an intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband is used to playing a stupid practical joke in ... See full summary »

Director: Germaine Dulac
Stars: Germaine Dermoz, Alexandre Arquillière, Jean d'Yd
Foolish Wives (1922)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A con artist masquerades a Russian nobility and attempts to seduce the wife of an American diplomat.

Director: Erich von Stroheim
Stars: Rudolph Christians, Miss DuPont, Maude George
Napoleon (1927)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A film about the French Field Marshal's youth and early military career.

Director: Abel Gance
Stars: Albert Dieudonné, Vladimir Roudenko, Edmond Van Daële
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Two orphaned sisters are caught up in the turmoil of the French Revolution, encountering misery and love along the way.

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish, Joseph Schildkraut
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Arch-criminal Dr. Mabuse sets out to make a fortune and run Berlin. Detective Wenk sets out to stop him.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker
Greed (1924)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved.

Director: Erich von Stroheim
Stars: Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

An aging doorman, after being fired from his prestigious job at a luxurious Hotel is forced to face the scorn of his friends, neighbours and society.

Director: F.W. Murnau
Stars: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Max Hiller
Les vampires (1915)
Action | Adventure | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

An intrepid reporter and his loyal friend battle a bizarre secret society of criminals known as The Vampires.

Director: Louis Feuillade
Stars: Musidora, Édouard Mathé, Marcel Lévesque
Strike (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A group of oppressed factory workers go on strike in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Stars: Grigori Aleksandrov, Maksim Shtraukh, Mikhail Gomorov
J'accuse! (1919)
Drama | Horror | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

The story of two men, one married, the other the lover of the other's wife, who meet in the trenches of the First World War, and how their tale becomes a microcosm for the horrors of war.

Director: Abel Gance
Stars: Romuald Joubé, Maxime Desjardins, Séverin-Mars
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths.

Director: Oscar Micheaux
Stars: Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

In 1910 the British Antarctic Expedition, led by Capt. Robert F. Scott, embarks from Lyttleton, NZ on a quest to become the first to reach the South Pole.

Director: Herbert G. Ponting
Stars: Robert Falcon Scott, Herbert G. Ponting


Cast overview:
Ivy Close ...
Pierre Magnier ...
Jacques de Hersan
Max Maxudian ...
Le minéralogiste Kalatikascopoulos
Georges Térof ...
Gil Clary ...
Dalilah (as Mme. Gil-Clary)


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 <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

17 February 1923 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Wheel  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Included among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Grand Filmmaking: sometimes brilliant, sometimes a slog
27 July 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Abel Gance is not a filmmaker who thinks small. There is something to be said for a master filmmaker (for Gance clearly is a master) pursuing his vision at all cost. In subject matter, La Roue possess similar qualities to early 20th Century realist novels. Frank Norris comes to mind. Of course Norris's novel McTeague was the subject of another grand visionary director, Erich Von Stroheim.

Sisif, an engineer, a "man of the rails," finds an orphaned child after a railroad crash. He takes this child, Norma, home to raise as his own, alongside his son Elie. Fifteen years pass, Norma grows into a beautiful, free-spirited woman. Sisif begins to look at his adopted daughter in a way that is very unfatherly, nor is he alone in his desire. Elie, Sisif's son, seems to have feelings for his "sister," feelings Norma shares. Uncontrolled passions lead to tragedy until the (somewhat) optimistic ending. The film's first half takes place either in the family home surrounded by rails or around the railyards. The background of the railroad, with its grime and smoke, does add to the ambiance of the film. The second half is largely set in the snow covered alps. Both halves possess a realism due to the locations.

There are sections in La Roue that rank among the best in silent cinema. My favorite is the sequence where Norma leaves for Paris, a sequence about halfway through the film. She says goodbye to her home in a series of beautifully poetic shots. Then, she boards a train driven by her "father." En route, a fit of jealousy consumes Sisif. He plans to crash the train. What follows is a series of fast edits that are as advanced as anything used by the Russians from this time period. It is hard not to be awed by the sequence. Nor, is this the only one. La Roue has about half a dozen such eye-popping moments. It also features a moving finale that seems earned.

It should also be noted that La Roue, even in the shortened cut that remains, runs four hours and twenty minutes. It cannot be watched casually! I spent one whole day with Flicker Alley's DVD, homebound due to an aching leg and a reeling stomach. Others may not have the infirmity (and the patience) for that type of commitment. I can understand. The running time, even shortened, is overly generous for the story told. There are sections that drag. A certain repetitious quality hurts the film (one character tries three separate times to kill himself with a train). La Roue is not an epic like Lawrence of Arabia, or, rather, La Roue is an intimate epic, about people, about desire, and about despair. Most certainly the story did not need the indulgent running time, but I'm glad the film exists just as an example of a filmmaker going for broke. I even felt my day was well spent, even if the idea of watching La Roue in its entirety a second time seems more like combat than entertainment.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
anyone know where I can find this movie? theconnman
I Disagree Completely with PLANKTONRULES ancientnut
On TCM April 27, 2008 - 11 pm dautkomm
why is early French cinema unavailable to American audiences? danielj_old999
Toby the dog lesamourai27
Discuss The Wheel (1923) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: