19 user 30 critic

The Wheel (1923)

La roue (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 17 February 1923 (France)
A railway engineer adopts a young girl orphaned by a train crash. Years later when she starts getting suitors, he grapples with whether or not to tell her the truth about her parentage.


Abel Gance


Abel Gance




Credited cast:
Gabriel de Gravone ... Elie
Pierre Magnier ... Jacques de Hersan
Georges Térof Georges Térof ... Mâchefer
Séverin-Mars ... Sisif
Ivy Close ... Norma
Max Maxudian ... Le minéralogiste Kalatikascopoulos
Gil Clary Gil Clary ... Dalilah (as Mme. Gil-Clary)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Géo Dugast Géo Dugast ... Le cheminot Jacobin


Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (who 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




Not Rated

Did You Know?


Abel Gance came up with the idea for this film the day his wife, Marguerite Danis, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Gance completed editing on the 32-reel film on 9 April 1924, hours after Danis died. See more »


When Sisif is running in front of the locomotive, the first shot has the locomotive numbered 475. In subsequent shots, the number on the loco is 2013. See more »


Title Card: And they are all bound upon the Wheel - - - bound from life after life! - KIPLING
See more »

Alternate Versions

Originally released to the public with a running time of just over 5 hours. Later edited down to 2 1/2 hours. . See more »


Edited into Histoire(s) du cinéma: Une histoire seule (1989) See more »

User Reviews

The Wheel is Not for All Tastes
4 March 2014 | by JLRMovieReviewsSee all my reviews

A horrific train accident leaves a baby alone in the world, when a railway worker takes it in and raises the little girl as his own, alongside his own son, who was practically a baby, too. But, because they are never told they aren't blood relation, their relationship feels very awkward for them as they age, as they feel an attraction that is never said but is felt very much so. As the girl blossoms into a young lady, she has suitors who admire her and one in particular who proposes. From there on, it gets tragic with developments that make her marry him when she didn't really want to and the secret comes out about the brother and sister being not kin, making the son mad at the father. The father is blinded by way of an unfortunate accident, and that only exacerbates the fact that he is a drinker, who now only feels sorry for himself. The film may be well-regarded for its artistry and grandness, but to me it feels dated and seems to wallow in the misery of the lead characters too much with not enough action; they're only walking around and wailing, particularly the father and daughter. It amazes me that this four hour movie was actually much longer but was cut, as I felt it to be too long as it is. I admit the opening fade in was very moving with the shot of the father, but as the movie went from the 2-hour mark to the end, its tragedies come across rather surreal and the ending leaves the viewer with a weird What just happened?. Obviously I don't appreciate this work of art that others may love and defend.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 19 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.





None | French | English

Release Date:

17 February 1923 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Wheel See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Films Abel Gance See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (2008) (cut) | (restored)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Everything That's New on Netflix in December

No need to waste time endlessly browsing—here's the entire lineup of new movies and TV shows streaming on Netflix this month.

See the full list

Recently Viewed