18 January 2013

Sundance '13: Circles

Starring: Aleksandar Bercek, Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Glogovac, Hristina Popovic, Nikola Rakocevic, Vuk Kostic
Written by: Srdjan Koljevic, Melina Pota Koljevic
Directed by: Srdan Golubovic
112 min, Narrative, Serbia/Germany/France/Croatia/Slovenia

CIRCLES is a film about, well, circles. More accurately, it's about the ripple effect, how a stone tossed in a lake will create circles that spread farther and farther out, affecting the entire surface. If the stone is big enough, they'll spread all the way to shore.

Srdan Golubovic tells the (true) story of a Serbian soldier who was killed protecting a Muslim during a war. I knew this because I read it in the press materials. Also, it's on the poster. So it's kind of a spoiler and it kind of isn't. It's hard to say for sure.

It's an important bit of information, as it's the splash that creates all of those circles. Every single thing in the film is dependent on that event. There's 2 parts to it: the confrontation, which we see in the beginning, and the murder, which we don't get until the very end. The murder is the important part.

Here's what ends up happening. The film start with this soldier as the main character. He stops some fellow soldiers from killing a muslim shop keeper. Then, flash forward 12 years. Suddenly, he's not in the movie anymore. After a while you figure out he's dead, but that takes a long time. Honestly, I thought maybe a scene was just missing from the movie. And that would be a cool narrative trick if it accomplished anything. We aren't talking about an event that everyone has a different view on or has some revelation about how it really happened. We don't even learn that the motivations behind it were different. Every character in the movie knows exactly what happened and why. It informs their actions throughout the film. It's a really important scene. And it's at the very end, for seemingly no other reason than, you know, circles are round. You could move that scene back to the beginning and the film would be substantially improved.

And it's a shame, because this has the potential to be a fascinating film about redemption and trying to live together after a horrific ethnic war, wonderfully shot and acted. Instead, it's just confusing for no good reason.

CIRCLES plays in the World Dramatic competition at Sundance.