Directed by Srdan Golubović
Circles (Serbian: Krugovi) is a Serbian movie based on the true story of a Serbian soldier who risked his life to protect a Muslim civilian during the war in Bosnia. During the war in Bosnia in 1993, a Serbian soldier pays for his life after protecting a Muslim civilian from being attacked by three other soldiers. 12 years later, the consequences of this act of heroism are still having their repercussions.
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★★★½ review by Edgar Cochran on Letterboxd
A Serbian film playing by Iñárritu's rules.
The film is inspired by the true story of a Bosnian Serb soldier named Srđan Aleksić who died in Trebinje, Bosnia after protecting a Bosniak Muslim civilian named Alen Glavović in January 1993 during the Bosnian War. In the movie, a Serbian soldier named Marko protects a Bosniak shopkeeper named Haris who is being beaten to death by Serbian soldiers. After he disrupts the violence executed by the soldiers, the film makes a time jump 12 years ahead without prior warning and introduces us to three parallel stories taking place in Germany, Serbia and Bosnia respectively:
1) In Germany, Haris, in eternal gratitude for Marko's heroic act, tries to protect and shelter a wife and her son from an abusive husband.
2) In Serbia, Marko's friend, who was present at the moment of Marko's heroic intervention, is a doctor and his new patient, who suffered serious injuries from a fatal car accident, is one of the soldiers that mistreated Haris and killed Marko in 1993. He must confront difficult decisions and get beyond his ethical and professional convictions whether to participate in the operation or not, since he is the only doctor qualified for this sort of operation.
3) In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a son of one of the cruel Serbian soldiers is looking for a job and finds an opportunity with Ranko, the father of Marko, who is constructing a church on a mountainous hill far away from the city. Marko rejects him from the beginning and the boy's mother warns him not to work with him, but the son seeks justice and he sees unfair that he must pay for the crimes of his father.
The film simultaneously intertwines and develops the three stories in a Babel (2006) fashion as we move on from rural settings to the urban life of Germany as all characters experience the ghosts of their own past and how an act committed 12 years ago still has repercussions today. The film borrows its title from the allegory of throwing a stone into the water, causing circular waves around it. Marko's heroic act is the stone thrown at the water and the circular waves on the water surface are the future consequences of this focal point.
Audaciously shot, it literally replicates the dramatic tradition of Iñárritu and, originality issues aside, it is a good film, even if somewhat dramatically didactic with a touch of Hollywood melodrama. Nevertheless, the lessons are of universal appeal and the film closes with the viewer's reflection on violence as the audience travels back to 1993 once again in order to come full circle, which is a narrative technique I hadn't seen in a long time.
It is a recommended viewing.
★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
Serbia's entry into the Foreign Language category at next years Oscars is a patiently constructed drama based on a true story about an incident that took place during the Balkan war during the early 90's. Although the Serb/Muslim conflict plays a part in the tale the focus is not the politics between the two sides, rather the pride and paranoia that caused internal wounds on one side in particular.
We start in 1993 with Marko, a Serbian soldier on leave visiting his fiancée Nada in the Bosnian town of Trebinje. Whilst in the town square cafe with his good friend Bogdan, he intervenes and stops a few of his colleagues from beating a Muslim shop keeper within an inch of his life. The tension between the men is palpable, although we are then moved into 2005 where Haris, the same man saved by Marko that day, is meeting his fiancée and her son.
The film then splits into a number of modern day threads dealing with the repercussions of that incident twelve years ago. We soon learn that a tragic fate befell Marko but do not know exactly what that is until the very end. In the meantime we follow his father back in Bosnia, his doctor friend Bogdan now working as a surgeon and Haris, who is living a new life in Germany.
As the title indicates, the analogy is one of the ripples, or rather circles, caused when an object is dropped into water. The knock-on-effect of Marko saving Haris from probable death still affects the lives of generations from before and after, as tends to be the case with atrocities committed during war. The breakdown of the former Yugoslavia was a bloody and brutal time that still casts a shadow over the region and its people and this is a sad case that reflects some of that pain.
The sacrifice made by a Serbian soldier to protect a Muslim civilian is a profoundly human act that in any other situation would have been lauded. Yet the complicated politics of that time meant that it was seen as being a traitor to your own. With an effect on so many lives in the subsequent years, director Srdan Golubovic dares to ask if that moment of kindness was truly worth it.
Production wise it is a very nice looking film, well shot and complimented all round with solid performances from the cast. There are one or two plot conveniences that would have become a problem were it not for the way these people interact and subtly develop. Their lives and actions are depicted in a thoroughly convincing manner as the narrative progresses at just the right pace.
There are hints of Incendies lingering in the background although there is no twist that sledgehammers you unexpectedly. It is a smart move to tell the story back-to-front, which gives the main incident far more weight when it is exposed. By doing so, it substantiates the layers of guilt, redemption and reconciliation that makes this such an engaging watch.
★★★★ review by Ferre Rodríguez on Letterboxd
Wonderfully conceived and nicely crafted and structured, "Circles" never goes out of its comfort zone and it's a bit too academic and restrained, but it's also a more than nice, subtle, beautiful and really interesting look at the personal, interindividual consecuences of violence and war.
★★★★ review by Moby_Octopad on Letterboxd
Συγκλονιστικό φιλμ, από αυτά που δεν ξεκινούν έχοντας στο μυαλό τους μόνο πώς θα καταλήξουν έτσι αλλά το κερδίζουν χτίζοντας στην πορεία. Θα μπορούσε να παρουσιάσει στην αρχή ολόκληρη την επίμαχη σκηνή και αυτό θα ήταν από μόνο του ένα πολύ ισχυρό μήνυμα, ωστόσο προτιμά να εξετάσει και να υπογραμμίσει τις συνέπειες του πολέμου και της βίας ως το κενό που αφήνει στους ανθρώπους και στις διαπροσωπικές τους σχέσεις, όσα χρόνια και αν περάσουν. ΤΟ γεγονός είναι το σημείο μηδέν γύρω από το οποίο ο χρόνος σταματά να προχωρά γραμμικά και κάνει κύκλους, με τον ίδιο τρόπο που ο Bogdan αρνείται το ποτό στον Ranko όπως ο γιος του πριν από 12 χρόνια και ο Haris καταλήγει να βρίσκεται στην ίδια θέση ξανά και ξανά όντας σημαδεμένος με ενοχές απ' ό,τι συνέβη. Όταν στο τέλος βλέπεις επιτέλους ολόκληρη την εικόνα, δεν είναι ένα περιστατικό σοκ αλλά ανθρώπινου βουβού πόνου.
★★★½ review by Rakestraw on Letterboxd
Critically acclaimed Serbian director, Srdan Golubovic, newest cinematic offering Circles happens to be inspired by true events occurring during the Bosnian War in 1993, wherein a Serbian soldier named Marko (Vuk Kostic) courageously intervenes when three of his fellow soldiers brutalize a Muslim civilian, Haris (Leon Lucev), in the middle of the town square. This singular heroic act of sacrifice saves the life of one man, however, tragically the brutality of the three soldiers shifts focus onto one of their own, and the damage done creates a ripple effect in the lives of those involved.
The film’s tragic opening stops short of the showing the viewer how the harrowing event ultimately reaches its ruthless end, quickly skipping ahead 12 years in the future. The specifics of Marko’s fate remain unclear; however, the most important detail of that day quickly becomes apparent…Marko died that day and Haris did not. The genesis of this fateful day started with one, seemingly inconsequential mistake, that is forgetting one’s pack of cigarettes when leaving the house. The resulting actions within Circles are a series of interactions between the perpetrators and the people closest to the victim and how they've been affected by the events of that day, forcing them to confront the past, coming to grips with their individual emotions.
Although Golubovic’s Circles is by no means revolutionary in its execution, the film does an adequate job of handling the emotionally heavy aftermath with fair amount of restraint and grace, even considering some of the film’s overbearing sequences. The cinematography from Aleksandar Ilic is a mixture of hand-held and static framing imbuing the scenes with a small intimacy giving the feeling that this exercise of emotional dissection comes with a bit of apprehension. The ending features an inspired choice, having the camera focus on the idle, reticent bystanders gaze upon the brutality inflicted upon one of their own, at the hands of their own.
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