poor, Afgan immigrant well digger named Nasim (Moharram Zaynalzadeh)
distractedly watches on with his son as a friend performs his daredevil
motorcycle act. Nasim's thoughts are consumed by his gravely ill wife,
and the hospital's reluctance to continue to provide treatment without
receiving payment for her incurred medical expenses. Unable to raise
enough money from his itinerant work, Nasim unsuccessfully attempts
to perpetrate several underhanded schemes - faking an attempted suicide
behind the wheels of a bus and offering his services to drive a truck
for a smuggling operation - before attracting the interest of an opportunistic
circus promoter with his faded recognition as a former champion of
a three day endurance bicycle marathon. Reluctantly, Nasim agrees
to ride a bicycle continuously for seven days at a vacant lot. For
the price of admission, the people can watch the painful tragedy of
poverty and despair unfold before them, as Nasim's dire circumstances
are laid bare before the curious public. Soon, the sick and the dying
are transported to the unusual show as an insincere means of eliciting
false hopes and inciting courage for their own tragic plights. But
even as Nasim begins to gain moral support for his endeavor, his singular
effort is subverted by street vendors, fortune tellers, and political
agitators who exploit the sideshow attraction for their own gain.
When Nasim becomes the unwitting subject of a wager between two wealthy,
well-connected businessmen, his personal struggle becomes a cruel
game of manipulation by anonymous strangers who will spare nothing
to ensure their own monetary victory.
creates a spare and deeply affecting portrait of human despair, exploitation,
and resilience in The Cyclist.
Through the recurrent imagery of circles, Makhmalbaf provides a metaphor
for the ritual of existence: the opening image of the motorcycle stunt,
Nasim's dehumanizing cycling exhibition, the children tossing flowers
across Nasim's path. Inevitably, Nasim's determined quest transcends
the spectacle of human misery to become an inexhaustible celebration
for the triumph of the human spirit.
2001. All rights reserved.
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