Reviewed at Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival, Feb. 3, 1994. Running time:65 MIN.
A simple, sorrowful parable that stealthily accelerates its wrenching emotional thrust, “The Wheel” eloquently chronicles a humble quest for dignity in the face of denial. Modest, gently modulated entry from Bangladesh should roll into festival dates and specialist cultural venues.
Passing by an isolated health-care center while transporting a load of rice, the driver of an ox-drawn cart and his companion are bullied into delivering a dead body to relatives in a distant village. A commotion of dread and morbid curiosity greets their arrival at the instructed destination, but no claimants to the corpse come forward. Forced to continue their haul, they try another, similarly named village in the hope of a mix-up, but an identical reception exacerbates their quandary.
As the debilitating odyssey proceeds, their initial resentment of the task and indifference to their cargo is steadily replaced by distressed respect for the unwanted dead man. Their attempts to give him a decent burial meet with further refusals on the grounds of his uncertain faith, and in the end, they bury him themselves in a remote stretch of land.
The story progresses unhurriedly from the journey’s jaunty outset through its many acrid false finishes to its resonantly doleful conclusion, and director Morshedul Islam invests the desolate tale with a fluid, hypnotic rhythm, discordantly underscored by the harsh drone of the cart’s wheels. Anwar Hossein’s lensing of both countryside and poverty-stricken village locations is unembellished but effective.