A sombre portrait of life in a remote Algerian village, with much of the troubled humanity that distinguishes films like the Tavianis' Padre Padrone. Through a number of characters - in particular, a rich wool merchant's three wives, and Kaddour (Barkat), an unmarried orphan, shepherd and dogsbody the merchant has adopted - Chouikh dramatises his outrage at the destructive, outmoded workings of the polygamous Muslim marital laws. While the merchant wants to take a fourth wife, the orphan, deemed ineligible for marriage because of his poverty, falls for a married woman. When the community's male elders discover this forbidden liaison, they demand that the merchant find Kaddour a bride within 24 hours to save the village's honour. The film uses powerful, often poetic images to illuminate the iniquities and hypocrisy that produce explosive tensions within the community. But the characterisations are too thin - Chouikh relies heavily on faces - and the sympathies too wide and opaque for the film to work as drama. The result is distanced and confusing, like watching people through a window.