In 1956, Ostertag (Matthias Hungerbühler), a teacher at a girl’s school, becomes a member of the gay organisation Der Kreis/The Circle. At the annual autumn ball, Ostertag sees Röbi Rapp (Sven Schelker) performing as a drag queen for the first time. They quickly take a liking to each other while Ostertag starts to actively contribute to the organisation’s publications.
When closeted composer Robert Oboussier and a member of Der Kreis, Gian (Antoine Monot Jr.), are murdered by rent boys, the organisation becomes the focus of the police. While homosexuality is officially not a crime anymore in Switzerland since 1942, prostitution between men is. Additionally, the media twists the facts and turns the murder victims into criminals and the murderers into victims. The press celebrates Gian’s murderer walking free from court as a “triumph of humanity”, putting more pressure on Der Kreis, resulting in them having to endure more questioning and passport checks.
The police are raiding homes, blackmailing gay men and threatening them with violence. The situation Der Kreis is in becomes unbearable and eventually leads to its end in 1967. The Circle combines contemporary witness accounts from the real Ernst Ostertag, Röbi Rapp and others with a fictional scripted depiction of their story.
“A richly absorbing historical docudrama.”
— Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
“The Circle has a sincerity and an honesty that shames far more expensive but over-polished dramas. Plenty of movies have happy endings; The Circle shows you both the happy ending and the incredibly hard work it took to get there.”
— James Rocchi, TheWrap
“The Circle is an undiscovered gem that constantly delights with its unshowy transference of an inherited blood debt that we finally are ‘beginning’ to honour.”
— D W Mault, CineVue
Did You Know?
The Circle was Switzerland’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015, but was not nominated. The film’s English title is translated literally from the original German one, Der Kreis. In the scene when young Ostertag is looking through a photo album with Rapp’s mother, they see photo stills from Edmund Heuberger’s black and white film Das Menschlein Matthias (1941) in which Röbi Rapp portrayed Matthias. Review our Gay Themed Films Here
Read our Essential Opinion on The Circle