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Zurich, 1956. The young teacher Ernst Ostertag falls head over heels in love with the transvestite star Robi Rapp and finds himself torn between his bourgeois existence and his commitment to homosexuality. Ernst becomes a member of the gay organization DER KREIS and lives through the high point and the eventual decline of the organization, which in the whole of Europe is seen as the pioneer of gay emancipation.Written by
"The Circle" is a biopic unlike any other. It is the story of Ernst and Robi, two gay men who met in 1950's Zurich. Ernst was a teacher and Robi a cabaret artist who performed in drag. They became lovers and are still together today. In the film they are played by Matthias Hungerbuhler, (Ernst), and Sven Schelker, (Robi), but the real Ernst and Robi, now old men, also appear on camera, along with other real-life personalities from the period, talking about themselves and their lives together. They are wonderful people and are an inspiration to us all.
Of course, "The Circle" is a biopic of a different kind. The title refers both to the magazine they worked on as well as to the circle of gay men who had to live their lives in secret, not for fear of prosecution, (homosexuality was not illegal in Switzerland), but for fear of how they might be treated by the police and the State which was often just short of what it might have been under the Nazis, and once exposed they risked losing everything, not least their lives. At first the lack of laws prohibiting homosexuality meant that Zurich was something of a haven for gay men, not just from Switzerland, but also from Germany and other neighboring countries, but when homosexuals began to be murdered by rent boys, and the courts worked it so that the killer would become the victim and vice versa, things began to change for the worse.
Stefan Haupt's film is a tribute to what was fundamentally a gay rights movement long before anyone coined the phrase, at times funny and often very sad, (not everyone's life had a happy ending), but ultimately hugely uplifting, and it is beautifully made. Indeed, as 'historical' gay films go this is one of the best and it shouldn't be missed.
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