The atheist demagogue Richard Dawkins, speaking of the cultural equivalent to evolutionary psychology, has written of its equivalent to the gene: meme. These tidbits of information survive the fall and collapse of civilizations, at least as some sort of pastiche in the very least, because they aid humans in their selfish biological quest.
Though the existence of some sort of “pure” altruism is still being debated by academics, the idea that these cultural constructs repeat themselves throughout time is a concept both implied and parodied by Gavin Heffernan’s “Grand Wheel.”
This film is listed as experimental, and though it contains no dialogue or narration, the shot selection tells a pretty simple story. Going from the opening merry-go-round to the ending sequence of a zoom-out of graves, the sun glinting off the middle portion, we are never consoled that this repetition of history will end. The entire middle portion of the film, which consists of protest footage and a gasping shark certainly provides no hope that this cycle of history can or will every cease.
Despite the good feeling we get when we attend a protest and stand with those of a like mind (or the memories that such a film evokes), we ultimate feel as though we’re preaching to the choir, and this film illustrates that well. The haunting notes of Godspeed You Black Emperor add to this frustration: yes, war repeats itself, bloodshed, violence, mass graves – they all repeat themselves.
The power of this film, however, lies in its mocking undertone. Though all of these bad things come cyclically, like some vast, circadian, cultural truth, so to repeats the congratulatory protest, the tears of the just, the denuding, entropic reality of the cycle of life.