THE CIRCLE | REVIEW FROM THE MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL

It is that time of the year, a time I love, Queer Screen‘s 2015 Mardi Gras Film Festival is on again and JK is poor from buying too many tickets and THEN getting screeners and invites to free screenings – dammit!! After this review I will finally be caught up with editing and will start posting my reviews but as I was away for the opening night of the festival, Kernel Emma Bishop thrust her hand up and represented Salty. THE CIRCLE is an amazing film set in the Zurich 50s secret gay society and is based on a true story told through scripted acting and historical footage. It runs for 102mins and has an 18+ festival rating. Suss the thoughts of Kernel Emma below and get yo ass to the film festival, high chance you will run into me over the next week, what more could you want?!?! Oh and if you miss this at the festival and have to see it you can buy it on DVD HERE. All the best……JK.

 

THE CIRCLE MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
THE CIRCLE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW FROM THE 2015 QUEER SCREEN MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY EMMA BISHOP

THE CIRCLE (Der Kreis) is a sensationally executed, award winning docu-drama which takes its audience back in time to Post-War Switzerland in the mid 50’s. Based on underground gay organization THE CIRCLE, which served as a safe haven and thriving social scene, two very different men cross paths and are instantaneously drawn together. Ernst Ostertag (Matthias Hungerbühler) is a middle class, reserved teacher at an all-girls school while Röbi Rapp (Sven Schelker) is a transvestite drag performer who lives with his widowed mother. Juxtaposed theatrical reenactments of the past and interview style shots in the present, work together blissfully to tell an extremely important and ultimately very hopefully story of love, perseverance and companionship.

 

THE CIRCLE MOVIE IMAGE
THE CIRCLE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW FROM THE 2015 QUEER SCREEN MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL | MOVIE IMAGE

 

Being one of the few countries in 1950’s Europe where homosexuality wasn’t illegal, Switzerland hosted a large LGBT community and as a result THE CIRCLE was born. The popular publication filled its pages with history, personal stories, photos and art which was released every two months and distributed to an international, yet anonymous audience. For such an intellectual and popular magazine, we are reminded in Haupt’s docu-drama of the extreme measures readers would take simply to browse through its provocative pages and also to mask their sexuality. Members were given cards without their names and Ostertag himself, alongside his colleague, is persistent in ensuring no one in his workplace learns of his involvement. The publication regularly hosted balls where gay men were able to meet and greet in a safe environment. Being a particularly cautious and closeted man, Ernst is timid in his decision to attend THE CIRCLES ball where, upon first glance, he instantly falls in love with Rapp. He is left with no choice but to pursue him and eventually the two become a couple. While Rapp’s mother is fully supportive of his sexuality, Ernst struggles with his conservative parents and for the most part of his life, his sexuality remains a secret. Not without its problems, the Swiss police make it exceedingly hard for THE CIRCLE to survive as they blackmail and scapegoat the innocent men for murders which took place at the time. It is apparent from the get go, that the pair are set to undergo many challenges as they continue to ask “Why can’t people simply live as they want to?” Audiences quickly learn Switzerland’s “gay friendly” label was a myth itself and even a country progressive at its time wielded a string of corruption and human rights abuse. As the film comes to its conclusion we are given a hopeful reminder that we are moving in the right direction, you’ll have to watch for yourself to see what happens.

 

THE CIRCLE GAY MOVIE IMAGE
THE CIRCLE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW FROM THE 2015 QUEER SCREEN MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL | ERNST ( MATTHIAS HUNGERBÜHLER) AND RÖBI (SVEN SCHELKER)

 

I don’t know that all audiences will appreciate the docu-drama mode of storytelling Stefan Haupt has used in THE CIRCLE; however for me it worked a treat. The story unfolded in a natural and interesting manor, which saw the lead characters extremely well developed. In addition to the well-developed leads, the story felt cohesive and the theatrical reenactments of the past were particularly enjoyable in bringing the men’s story to life. The interview footage of the now elderly pair, didn’t disrupt the narrative but instead added an essential depth to the story, it was human and honest. Seeing the men exchange jokes and speak openly about their struggles was genuinely interesting and a necessary element of the story. Sven Schelker who plays Röbi Rapp is the standout performance and is deeply affecting in all aspects of his role. His rich performance of a young Rapp, gives the film a compelling authenticity which many love stories so frequently lack. THE CIRCLE highlights the powerful response of the gay community and is one of few films released recently which comes with a happy and hopeful ending. When speaking about this Rapp and Ostertag said “The film reminds gays of today that they have a history worth knowing about, that they have roots down to generations before”. This is an important story well worthy of being canonized on screen, not least because of the men’s significant contribution to the on-going fight for equality but also simply because it is a beautiful love story.

 

THE CIRCLE GAY MOVIE IMAGE
THE CIRCLE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW FROM THE 2015 QUEER SCREEN MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL | RÖBI (SVEN SCHELKER) IN DRAG

 

THE CIRCLE is at its core, a very personal re-telling of a significant part of history. Haupt is particular in avoiding suspense and over-dramatizing the theatrical scenes, which work to the films advantage. Both the simple yet evocative piano which plays throughout the film and the uncomplicated (possibly the result of a low budget) set design are equal parts in taking us back in time, without losing authenticity of the story. This is a film which demands concentration and has a lot of history packed into a short few hours. THE CIRCLE is all it promises and more, it comes as no surprise to me this has picked up The Teddy Award for Best LGBT Documentary at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival.

 

4 Pops

 

 

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