Cir­cle of trust

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

THE CIR­CLE/DER KREIS Di­rected by Ste­fan Haupt. Star­ring Matthias Hunger­büh­ler, Sven Schelker, Mar­i­anne Säge­brecht, Ana­tole Taub­man, An­toine Monot, Jr. Club, IFI, Dublin, 102 min The docu­d­rama is an odd, of­ten clumsy beast, a genus that im­me­di­ately con­jures images of bad TV docs padded out by un­con­vinc­ing ex­tras do­ing un­con­vinc­ing things in un­con­vinc­ing pe­riod garb. The Cir­cle, con­versely, of­fers the best of both worlds, a per­fect mar­riage of mar­vel­lous his­tor­i­cal drama and mov­ing tes­ti­mony.

The of­fi­cial Swiss en­try for next year’s Academy Awards, The Cir­cle chron­i­cles the early years of a pi­o­neer­ing Swiss LGBT or­gan­i­sa­tion and its sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion. In 1951, a pe­ri­od­i­cal fea­tur­ing gay erot­ica emerged in Zurich. Der Kreis ( The Cir­cle) would soon be trans­lated into French, Ger­man and English, at­tract thou­sands of sub­scribers world­wide, and birth an early cos­mopoli­tan “scene”. It was a nifty knee­jerk re­ac­tion against the Nazi’s Para­graph 175, which made ho­mo­sex­ual acts il­le­gal and from which many of Der Kreis’s con­trib­u­tors (in­clud­ing founder Karl Meier) had fled.

Un­hap­pily, this thriv­ing cul­ture would not go un­mo­lested for long. The mur­der of an openly gay com­poser would trig­ger po­lice raids, the re­pres­sion of Zürich’s queer com­mu­nity and much fin­ger-point­ing in the di­rec­tion of the mag­a­zine and the peo­ple who pro­duced it.

Ste­fan Haupt’s film finds its his­tor­i­cal fo­cus with two of its con­trib­u­tors, Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, for­mer Der Kreis con­trib­u­tors and a loving cou­ple for the past 58 years. Sit­ting side by side in the present day, they touch­ingly re­count the early, event­ful years of their re­la­tion­ship. Be­tween rec­ol­lec­tions, this ro­mance be­tween an ide­al­is­tic school­teacher and his glam­orous cross-dress­ing cabaret singer boyfriend is beau­ti­fully re­alised by ac­tors Matthias Hunger­büh­ler and Sven Schelker.

We know what you’re think­ing. But don’t panic. We have also re­viewed this week’s straight re­leases for “bal­ance”.

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