LIFF27 - Circles - Cinema Review

'there is perhaps little here that Golubovic and screenwriters Srdjan Koljevic and Melina Pota Koljevic are saying about war that hasn't been said before but, perhaps like all great films, it is the way in which they say it'

Serbia's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Film at The Academy Awards, Circles faces stuff competition if it is to make it to the final five nominees, out of the seventy-six films proposed. Then again though, despite the fact that some of those films feature more recognisable names, it is difficult to imagine that there are five better films amongst them than Srdan Golubovic's human and well-written Bosnian War Drama.

In essence there is perhaps little here that Golubovic and screenwriters Srdjan Koljevic and Melina Pota Koljevic are saying about war that hasn't been said before but, perhaps like all great films, it is the way in which they say it, and the way in which they weave stories together, that makes all of the difference.

At the height of the conflict Marko (Vuk Kostic) sees a group of fellow Sebian soldiers beating a Muslim man, Haris (Leon Lucev). Jumping in to remonstrate he is himself beaten to death by his fellow fighters. Step forwards several years and Marko's would-be bride, Nada (Hristina Popovic) arrives in Germany to seek Haris' help, whilst Marko's father Ranko (Aleksandar Bercek) and friend Nebojsa (Nebojsa Glogovac) face their own dilemmas.

Predictably, given the title, the early insinuation from Golubovic is that violent acts lead to other violent deeds. All of the characters - save perhaps Ranko - have been subsequently touched by violence since Marko's death and all of them require assistance of some sort to overcome the challenges they now face. This isn't a new narrative, nor is it perhaps subtly considered by Golubovic, but the message still rings true and each of the characters feels well drawn and considered.

That fact is absolutely helped by the three borderline-incredible performances Bercek, Glogovac and Popovic put in. Bercek in particular, forced to confront the son of his own son's killer, creates a hulking, respectful, silent man, drawn on by a biblical quest (he's building a church on a hill, moving it stone by stone from another location) and perhaps a semi-hidden desire to finally close things off. Glogovac, a doctor, similarly finds himself up against a situation which seems solely to exist to enable him to gain closure, though it would require a violence of a sort. Can he follow the way that would appease his conscience, or is there a lesson to learn from Marko?

In the programme notes, the director talks of Circles as something of a personal attempt at reconciliation, having been around 100km from the frontline of the fighting himself. It's not for me to say whether Circles has provided him with some sort of relief, but certainly his fiction rings with the truth of the story it is based on, pushing us towards a promise, hope and honesty, which never feels like the Disneyland version of those concepts. This is honest and in that way it has followed 'Marko's' real-life lesson to the letter.

On a final note to do with honesty, the concluding scenes see Golubovic return to something kept off the screen for the first part of the film. You can understand why, eventually, he chooses to show it. An event repeated throughout nations, wars and civilisations, it is horrifying not only in itself but also in the consequences we have just had to endure. 'You need to see', Golubovic seems to say, and indeed, in several ways, he is right.




The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) takes place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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