The Circle

"Very Good"

The Circle Review


An intriguing combination of drama and documentary, this Swiss film tells a simple story that's compelling and still timely, addressing issues of equality and prejudice from an often startlingly personal perspective. Although since both the reality and dramatisations are so intriguing, they sometimes seem to interrupt each other, undermining a strong emotional punch that's clearly in there somewhere.

In present-day Zurich, Ernst Ostertag and Robi Rapp are pensioners reminiscing about their past. Cut to 1956 when Switzerland was the most open-minded country in Europe and schoolteacher Ernst (Matthias Hungerbuhler) joins The Circle, a secret society of homosexuals united by lively parties and a magazine that's widely distributed around the world. When Ernst meets the flamboyant cross-dressing entertainer Robi (Sven Schelker), he's instantly smitten. But their free-spirited life becomes increasingly strained when the police crack down on the gay subculture, paranoid about a series of rentboy murders around the city. And if the police commissioner (Markus Merz) succeeds in getting The Circle's organiser (Stefan Witschi) to release his mailing list, a lot of men will find their jobs and families under threat.

The two aspects of this film are both cleverly assembled, as Ernst and Robi narrate their own story and add telling observations to every event. This gives the dramatic recreations a spark of honesty that echoes in the earthy, natural performances by the actors. Hungerbuhler and Schelker make an offbeat couple, contrasting strongly both physically and emotionally. Robi feels that all of his life is unified, bringing his mother (the wonderful Sagebrecht) and Ernst together as his family. But Ernst wants to keep his harshly religious family very separate from his life with Robi.

Oddly, director Stefan Haupt takes a somewhat timid approach to the dramatic scenes, shying away from any positive expressions of physicality (the only sex scene is deliberately disturbing), which kind of undermines his attempt to put a happy spin on sexuality as represented in the colourful bar nights and sassy attitudes. In a way, Haupt is giving in to the same pressures Ernst and Robi felt 50 years ago to hide their relationship from the public gaze and present gay life in a way that fits into the usual boxes. But Ernst and Robi's documented story ultimately wins the day, as they finally are legally allowed to get married in 2003, an event they could never have imagined as young men. And this is an important reminder that despite new openness in Europe, many countries still marginalise and openly discriminate against people for who they are.



The Circle

Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th September 2000

Distributed by: Winstar Cinema

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Stefan Haupt

Producer: Urs Frey, Ivan Madeo

Starring: as Jay, as Stan, as Rick, as Dad, Jill Jacobson as Mom, as Cop

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.