The Circle (Switzerland, 2014)

Directed by: Stefan Haupt. Again, Europe, “preparation”, trying to “learn something about the country I’m visiting by watching a movie from there.” I don’t think I know any Swiss filmmakers, so I picked this one at random, and it’s a movie about a subversive gay subculture in Zurich in the postwar era. Why not? So I figured maybe I wasn’t learning about Switzerland at large, as much as a specific subculture (but then I ran into the Cabaret Voltaire, and I figured that maybe vibrant subcultures are a part of the greater culture in Switzerland, a country made up of small semi-independent cantons after all). Either way, this is a really interesting film, and an interesting entry into my ongoing interest in history represented in film, and the intersection between archival footage and dramatic re-creations. In Narcos, I mentioned how interesting it was that the inclusion of actual archival footage of the real people alongside the actors somehow added to the feeling of veracity in the dramatic re-creations rather than pointing to their falseness. And here, there’s something I’ve never seen before. You know how Hollywood movies based on real people will frequently end the movie with a photograph or film footage of the real person, with the credits about their real accomplishments and how they spent their lives after the narrative of the movie ends, just as a little end cap to the narrative? In this film, they have documentary interviews with the main characters, now old men, and they’re dropped in periodically throughout the film, commenting on, and giving context to, the narrative events as they are unfolding in the dramatic scenes, in the “real movie”. So we have a “movie”, a dramatic re-creation, periodically broken up with documentary interviews with the real people. I’ve never seen that before! And it has the strange function of, again, lending more credibility and veracity to the dramatic re-creations, even while performing the action of highlighting the difference between reality and artifice. Same as Narcos—reality is in service of elevating fiction’s truth-function. Pretty crazy huh? I love shit like that!

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