Directed by Srdan Golubovic.
Starring Aleksandar Bercek, Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Glogovac, Nikola Rakocevic, Hristina Popovic, Boris Isakovic and Vuk Kostic.
In the midst of the Bosnian war, Marko a Serbian soldier witnesses a brutal attack against Haris, a Muslim civilian, by three fellow soldiers. Marko interferes and saves Haris, but is beaten to death by the infuriated soldiers. Fifteen years later when the war is over, Marko’s father and best friend both encounter ethical dilemmas when one of Marko’s killers reappears in their lives.
One tragic event is still having lasting effects 12 years later in Srdan Golubovic’s Circles, a three-strand drama about the war in Bosnia. Though undeniably intriguing in its earlier scenes, as writers Melina Pota Koljevic and Srdjan Koljevic and director Golubovic drip-feed information, this well-acted drama is too predictable in its resolution to greatly distinguish itself. Amongst films about the after-effects of war, Circles feels too familiar, retreading old ground rather than carving its own path.
Based on the true story of a Serbian soldier killed whilst protecting a Muslim during the conflict, an uneasy, tragic opening sequence gives way to three separate stories taking place some 12 years later: The man’s former girlfriend is now on the run from an abusive husband; his old doctor friend is faced with operating on the man responsible for his murdered friend’s death; and the murdered soldier’s father is made a proposition by an unwelcome familiar face.
Keeping his cards close to his chest for a good hour, Golubovic – for all his good intentions – can no longer hide the fact that there isn’t much to his storytelling beyond the slow reveal. There are nice stylistic touches: That the film begins with the build-up to the event, moves the action forward 12 years, then cuts back in time to the outcome of the incident for the coda is effective, even touching. But the three parallel stories themselves are too by-the-book.
No disrespect to the actors, who all deserve praise. Characterisation is basic, however, with figures acting as representations of aspects of war rather than flesh-and-blood human beings. The guilt-ridden doctor represents the helpless civilian population that looked on as war raged; the girlfriend is the multitude of partners affected by the fate of their men; and the soldier is the villainous military hierarchy, filled with total belief in his actions and protected by the higher-ups.
Photography on the film gives a quiet, classical feel to Circles – some of Golubovic’s tracking shots are perfect in their subtle suggestive menace. But Circles is ultimately too safe. Happy endings in each story thread feels like a cop-out after the senseless, casual brutality of the scene the film revolves around. It’s a capable drama, but a conflict as complex as the Bosnian War just needs more.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Brogan Morris – Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the young princes. Follow Brogan on Twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion.