The Circle (4 stars)

The Circle

Swiss love story about a real-life romance and the struggle for gay rights

Hogmanay 2014 will bring the first same-sex marriages in Scotland. In terms of the struggle for equality it should be a moment to reflect on battles won, rights achieved and how far the UK has come. Sadly, global events from Uganda and Russia to the streets of Paris and the ballot box in California show just how fragile progress can be. The Circle is a timely release that uses a touching true-life story to explore the history of gay struggles in post-war Switzerland.

Homosexuality was never a criminal offence in Switzerland and sophisticated Zurich was home to a thriving social scene that also attracted a regular contingent of weekend visitors from Germany. The Circle was founded in 1942 and acted as a social group that staged events and published a magazine. It is where teacher Ernst (Matthias Hungerbühler) meets teenage barber Röbi (Sven Schelker) and begins a love affair that will last a lifetime and survive increasing state oppression, violence and Ernst's growing politicisation, as he decides to stop living in the shadows and fight for his love.

Directed by Stefan Haupt, The Circle is a dramatic enough story in its own right as we are reminded of secret lives lived in fear of exposure, blackmail or death. What lends it added stature is the insertion of interviews with the enduringly devoted Ernst and Röbi, who are now in their 80s, with Röbi still going strong as a drag queen entertainer. Their memories, the black and white photos and documentary footage of the 50s and 60s gives everything more emotional impact. The Circle is both a fascinating history lesson and a tender love story.

Selected release from Fri 12 Dec.

The Circle official trailer

The Circle

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • Germany
  • 1h 42min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Stefan Haupt
  • Cast: Matthias Hungerbühler, Sven Schelker,
  • UK release: 12 December 2014

Docudrama about The Circle, a Swiss social group for gay men that thrived during the 1940s and 1950s, focusing on the incipient love affair between teacher Ernst (Hungerbühler) and Barber Röbi (Schelker). The story is given added stature by the insertion of interviews with the real-life Ernst and Röbi. A fascinating…