Foreign Oscar Entry Review: Circles (Krugovi)

Circles, Serbia's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. : None Yet . International Sales Agent: Memento Films International (Mfi)

The end is often only the beginning. As irrefutably definitive as death is, its occurrence fabricates a tangent in other people’s lives that forever alters their destiny. Those involved in the event, the survivors or perpetrators, are left behind to grapple with the grudges, conflicts, and uncertainties that were aroused from that single fateful moment. Unknowingly, the deceased becomes the absolute protagonist of the stories that go on long after the last breath. Masterfully elaborated Srdan Golubovic’s Circles concocts a plot that doesn’t ask what would have happened to these characters’ lives if the hero wouldn’t have carried out his benevolent deed, but instead delves into the long-term repercussions of such irreversible act.

Intertwining three different stories in locations distant from each other, the film opens in 1993 as Marko (Vuk Kostic), a soldier in the Bosnian war, is returning home for the weekend to the mostly Muslim populated town of Trebinje in Serbia. While hanging out with his old pal Nabobs (Nebojsa Glogovac) he sees a pack of fellow Serbian soldiers harassing the Muslim shopkeeper Haris (Leon Lucev). Peacefully trying to prevent this from happening, Marko is beaten to death. Over a decade later all of those affected by the incident find themselves still dealing with the consequences. His elderly father, Ranko (Aleksandar Bercek), spends his days rebuilding a church on top of a mountain in Bosnia Herzegovina. Unexpectedly, his ability to forgive is tested when confronted with teenager Bogdan (Nikola Rakocevic), the child of one of his son’s killers who wants to work for him.

Given a second chance, Haris, who is eternally grateful for Marko’s sacrifice, now married and with two daughters, resides in Germany and feels responsible for helping Nada (Hristina Popovic), his savior’s former fiancé. Falling into alcoholism to cope with the grief of losing Marko, she has made her fair share of terrible choices and has come to ask him for refuge as she is running away with her son trying to escape her abusive husband. Even more morally challenging is Nabobs' predicament. Living in Belgrade now, the practicing surgeon is faced with the news that he has to operate on Todor (Boris Isakovic), Marko’s prime killer and save his life even though the latter shows no remorse for the brutal murder.

Superbly layered, the narrative is intricate and deeply affecting. Each of the participants in this fragmented tale about the ramifications of a single instant is presented with a unique opportunity to find closure and to transform the seemingly irreparable hatred into redemptive kindness. It takes a more courageous heart to fight darkness with hope than to give in to senseless revenge. In order to mitigate the pain produced by Marko’s death, Ranko must allow himself to see Bogdan for who he is, and not render him as evil based on his father's cruelty. By the same token, Haris’ commitment to repay his debt pushes him to put himself at risk to protect someone else, just as Marko selflessly did for him simply because it is the correct thing to do. Similarly troubled, Nabobs searches for a minute trace of remorse in his enemy in order to save himself giving into his rage. Needless to say, the entire cast entrances the viewer with dazzling performances coming out of the innermost preoccupations and torturing emotions which their characters endure.

Like the ripples on water after hit by a stone, the entire story revolves around a man whose is on screen for minimal time, yet, his absence sets in motion powerful concentric waves. Furthermore, although the film contains heavy philosophical themes, it is grounded on visceral humanity and impulses which run the risk of eradicating rationality when something unjustifiable takes place. Shot with arresting and straight forward beauty, the backgrounds serve as canvases against which the flawed players struggle with their conscience. Nothing short of a masterpiece, Golubović’s latest effort Circles is a boldly poetic work of art about the healing power of reconciliation.

Read Sydney Levine's Interview with director Srdan Golubović during the Sundance Film Festival Here

Read more about all the 76 Best Foreign Language Film Submission for the 2014 Academy Awards
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