The Circle review: circle of trust

This award-winning Swiss docudrama chronicles the establishment of a pioneering LGBT group and its erotic sister publication

The Circle
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Director: Stefan Haupt
Cert: Club
Genre: Documentary
Starring: Matthias Hungerbühler, Sven Schelker, Marianne Sägebrecht
Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins

The docudrama is an odd, often clumsy beast, a genus that immediately conjures images of bad TV docs padded out by unconvincing extras doing unconvincing things in unconvincing period garb. The Circle, conversely, offers the best of both worlds, a perfect marriage of marvellous historical drama and moving testimony.

The official Swiss entry for next year's Academy Awards, The Circle chronicles the early years of a pioneering Swiss LGBT organisation and its sister publication.

In 1951, a periodical featuring gay erotica emerged in Zurich. Der Kreis (The Circle) would soon be translated into French, German and English, attract thousands of subscribers worldwide, and birth an early cosmopolitan "scene".

It was a nifty kneejerk reaction against the Nazi's Paragraph 175, which made homosexual acts illegal and from which many of Der Kreis's contributors (including founder Karl Meier) had fled.


Unhappily, this thriving culture would not go unmolested for long. The murder of an openly gay composer would trigger police raids, the repression of Zürich’s queer community and much finger-pointing in the direction of the magazine and the people who produced it.

Stefan Haupt's film finds its historical focus with two of its contributors, Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, former Der Kreis contributors and a loving couple for the past 58 years.

Sitting side by side in the present day, they touchingly recount the early, eventful years of their relationship. Between recollections, this romance between an idealistic schoolteacher and his glamorous cross-dressing cabaret singer boyfriend is beautifully realised by actors Matthias Hungerbühler and Sven Schelker.

We know what you’re thinking. But don’t panic. We have also reviewed this week’s straight releases for “balance”.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic