The Circle, a film by Stefan Haupt, is based on the true story of the love of two vastly different men as they contest for their love, and with the help of friends contest for homosexual rights. The film takes place in Zürich Switzerland in the 1950’s. Throughout this era in Switzerland, homosexuality was certainly not a crime, but there was not a high tolerance for the homosexual population. Many displayed actions that are considered as homophobic. The short film goes behind the scenes into a scandal that kept the audience at the edge of their seats, as it accurately recreated the atmosphere of the era in which the Swiss exposed their intolerant ways. The first main character of discussion is Ernst; Ernst is a young introverted teacher who decides to join the homosexual organization known as The Circle, a banned magazine that serves the purpose of uniting the gay community in Switzerland after World War II. His involvement in the group brings an unexpected turn; here is where he meets Röbi, a cross gender singer and performer by night and a hairdresser by day. Immediately, Röbi and Ernst fall in love. A conflict that the film presents is the self-confliction of their imminent love that both Röbi and Ernst face. Ernst finds himself stuck in the middle between his ‘conventional’ life style and the acceptance of his own homosexuality. For Röbi, the idea of his first committed relationship is a daunting and scary thought. In the end, the two decide to commit and fight for their love, a love which proves to last an entire lifetime. In fact, the real Ernst and Röbi were the first legally married homosexual couple in Switzerland, at the age of 73. These conflicts that the men face are ones that may be relatable to homosexuals in our society when they make the choice to commit to their first serious relationship. In this sense, the film is an excellent representation of fighting against the grain of our society, which sometimes displays cases of heterosexism. Gender and Race both play small but important roles in the film. Röbi’s job by night as a drag performer introduces and familiarizes the audience with the idea of being transgender; even though this act that he puts on for his performances isn’t carried out through Röbi’s everyday life and character. Gender expression is also brought to life by Röbi’s role in the film through is extravagant performances at the famous gala’s which are hosted by the organization. Race plays a role in the film which isn’t as direct; it is a theme which is hidden between the lines. It is incorporated in the film as the Swiss police persecute the gays. It may be said that another theme of the film was to show the audience that the Swiss people and the Swiss Law continued their ways of persecuting those whose lifestyles didn’t ‘fit’ the mould of Swiss society due to socialization, even after such a tragedy as the reign of the Nazis. The Circle in many scenes plays out like an action or thriller movie. Characters in the movie fear from the police as they try and infiltrate the list of people who are subscribing to the magazine that The Circle is publishing. Aside from the thrilling and dramatic side of the movie, one of the most attention grabbing scenes is the ball which the organization hosts. The scene was brought to life with endless chatter, performances, and live art from the organization. These balls were the only known homosexual events held in the entire world at the time. The room is filled with joy and with laughter as people are dancing, singing, and paying appreciation to the organization. This scene is where Röbi is first seen singing for the crowd, and Ernst is in awe by his talent and instantly drawn to him; it is love at first sight. The importance of this scene is that is clearly represents the instant feeling of love that both characters feel for each other, in an environment of such acceptance and welcome. At first, Ernst believes that Röbi really is a woman. His response when he finds out that Röbi really is a man is “You’re kidding!”. This scene was a memorable one, the feeling of happiness and love was so contagious and one could not help but smile at Ernst’s reaction to Röbi. The ambiance in the room added to the feeling of the scene, the light was dim and really set the mood of what was happening in the scene.
My experience of attending the festival was a great one, one that I would recommend to all students, not just the ones enrolled in the course. The Screening Room is a great setting for such an intimate yet thrilling movie. The size is smaller than a normal theatre, which added to the intimacy of the film. Everyone in the theatre seemed to be drawn in and really engaged in the film. The reason I found the film to be so interesting and captivating was the different moods in the film. Scenes ranged from calm and controlled scenes of Ernst and Röbi expressing their love, to harsh and loud scenes with investigations and police. This gave the film many different dimensions, which made it very interesting and captivating for the audience.
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