Dir/scr: Srdan Golubovic. Serbia- Germany-France-Croatia-Slovenia. 2012. 112mins
Another foray into the guilt and retribution issues that have been tormenting the Balkans incessantly since the end of the war there. And though Srdan Golubovic has no instant solutions to alleviate the pain or restore justice (no one seems to have), it is impossible not to be moved by the sincere honesty of his earnest attempt to throw more light on a woeful past that refuses to go away. Circles (Krugovi), inspired by a real event, should find receptive audiences in every corner of the world familiar with these issues and the nightmares they incur, and sadly enough, there are far too many such corners, nowadays.
Shot and framed with remarkable precision, cleverly cut together to imply more of an intertwining between the separate plots than there actually is, Golubovic’s direction also has the benefit of some truly dedicated performances.
The entire plot revolves around the death of a Serbian soldier, Marko (Vuk Kostic) beaten to death by three of his comrades when he stops them from killing a Muslim kiosk owner. The incident itself, which actually took place in the small town of Trebinje in Bosnia, provides only the bookend of the film - that is the opening and closing sequences - but its shadow never leaves the screen all through the rest of it, which takes place 12 years later.
The Muslim kiosk owner, Haris (Leon Lucev), has married in the meantime a German nurse and moved to Halle where he now works at BMW. One day, Marko’s troubled girlfriend, Nada (Hristina Popovic) comes in with her seven year-old son, on the run from her violent husband, and asks for shelter, which Haris, forever grateful to the memory of the man who saved his life, would never dream of denying her.
Nebojsa (Nebojsa Glogovac), Marko’s friend who had witnessed his death, is now a brain surgeon in Belgrade and has to operate on one of Marko’s murderers, Todor (Boris Isakovic), badly injured in a traffic accident. Finally, back in Trebinje, Marko’s old father, Ranko (Aleksander Bercek) is rebuilding an old church on top of a hill and has to face the son of yet another of his son’s murderers, who approaches him for work.
Moving back and forth between one story and another, Golubovic tackles his characters from different angles, tries to capture the pain, the sense of irretrievable loss, the guilt and the moral dilemmas each of them have to deal with, and wonder whether any one will ever learn anything from it all. In the process he touches a number of sensitive spots that will not go unnoticed, for instance when he points at the guilt of those who never dared interfere with wrong doing when they should have, or when he allows a faint suggestion of scorn to pass through the eyes of Haris’ wife (Geno Lechner) when she sees her husband on the brink of panic.
Shot and framed with remarkable precision, cleverly cut together to imply more of an intertwining between the separate plots than there actually is, Golubovic’s direction also has the benefit of some truly dedicated performances, such as Lucev’s Haris, the terrors of the past very much alive and coming out of every pore in his body but never affecting his determination to keep his moral commitments come what may, Isakovic’s Todor, offering a scary sample of explosive and violence brimming just behind the surface, or Bercek, playing the victim’s father with profound but contained grief, stubbornly putting together with his own hands, stone by stone, an ancient church as if trying to restore a past that is by now beyond reach. This is a cast that knows exactly what the film is about possibly because they all have been close enough in real life to witness the tragedies the film is talking about.
Production companies: Film House Bas Celik, Neue Mediopolis Film Produktion GmbH, La Cinefacture, Arte Cinema, Propeller Film, Vertigo
International Sales: Memento Films International, www.memento-films.com
Producers: Jelena Mitrovic, Alexander Rijs, Emilie George, Danijel Hocevar, Boris T. Matic
Screenplay: Srdan Golubovic, Srdjan Koljevic, Milena Potakoljevic
Cinematography: Alaksandar Ilic
Editor: Marko Glusac
Production designer: Goran Joksimovic
Music: Mario Schneider
Main cast: Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Golgovac, Nicola Rakocevic, Aleksander Bercek, Marko Janketic, Hristina Popovic, Boris Isakovic, Geno Lechner, Jasna Djuricic