Taken to its bare bones, the story deals with Sisif, a locomotive engineer who saves Norma, an infant girl, from a train wreck and raises her as his adopted daughter. Norma thinks Sisif’s son Elie is her brother, and when the two fall in love, she leaves to marry a virtual stranger. Sisif is also obsessed with her and the plot elaborates this triangular relationship.
German director G. W. Pabst, an ardent admirer of La Roue, was encouraged by Gance’s example to undertake his own remarkable explorations of human psychology in such silent films as Secrets of a Soul, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Yet La Roue is even more remarkable for its cinematic accomplishment than for its story. The film was shot almost entirely on location. Sets were built along the railroad tracks in the yard at St. Roch, near Nice, and at an elevation of 13,000 feet on Mount Blanc. Gance pioneered a dazzlingly innovative style of rapid montage that revolutionized filmmaking around the world, especially in the works of Eisenstein and his contemporaries in the Soviet Union. Almost every sequence was experimental: as his cinematographer, L-H Burel recalled, “I’d never come to the end of it if I were to list all the tests we did, all the special effects I invented, and all the innovations we launched.”
Like Intolerance and Citizen Kane, La Roue became a source book of cinematic invention that reverberated in countless other classic films over the decades. It was hailed by artists and intellectuals, who recognized it as a stunning advance in modern art. Said Akira Kurosawa, “The first film that really impressed me was La Roue.” This new restoration with a running time of nearly four and a half hours, accompanied by Robert Israel’s symphonic score, is the fullest presentation of La Roue to reach the public since 1923. It at last allows audiences today to experience the amazing, poetic vision that Abel Gance brought to the world."
Starring: Séverin-Mars, Ivy Close and Gabriel de Gravone
Directed By: Abel Gance
Written By: Abel Gance
Score By: Robert Israel
Language: Silent with English Intertitles
Video: 480i Standard Definition / 1.33:1 / Black and White / Tinted Color
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Theatrical Release: 1923
Runtime: 270 Minutes
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Region Code: Region 0 (All Regions)
Special Features: Atour de La Roue - A short film that provides a vivid documentary record of the great work in production, Original Press Book - A page-by-page view of the original Press Book, 16 Page Booklet - Abel's Gance's 'Tragedy of Modern Times': La Roue by William M. Drew and Composing for La Roue by Robert Israel."