Film Review of “The Circle – Der Kreis”

The Circle – Der Kreis” (Haupt,2014) – a Swiss docu-drama directed by Stefan Haupt was set in Zurich during the time of the late-1950s to early-1960s. The movie’s title, “The Circle”, was taken from the name of the first gay rights organization during the Nazi period in Europe. It documented the rise, the downfall and the eventual collapse of this organization; alongside this historical setting of the movie, tells a heart-touching, real life love story of an ex-teacher, Ernst Ostertag and a transvestite star, Röbi Rapp.


Homosexuality, has long been a sensitive and controversial topic. While North Americans nowadays have become far too familiar with the stories of fighting for gay rights and marriage equality, “The Circle” takes viewers back to a world where homosexuality was hardly legal, and was not completely acceptable.. Switzerland, having decriminalized same-sex relationships since 1942 (Rodgers et. al,2014), had become an attractive country for a lot of the gays. That being said however, due to geographical and cultural reasons, the country has always been in close association with its neighboring country, Germany. Therefore, the country during that time was still more or less under the influence of World War II, where discrimination were strengthened under the Nazi regime.

Homosexuality & Social Acceptance

If homosexuality was legal in the country, then what was the purpose of this underground community? Looking back at before 1973, homosexuality was actually considered a form of mental illness globally (TreeHugger,2011). With that in mind, this particular social group were then subjected to social discrimination. In the movie, Ostertag came from an upper class family. In a position of superiority means to uphold their reputations within the society. This is shown in the movie when Ostertag had to hide his sexual orientation not only from his friends, but also his family, and especially at the girls’ school that he taught at. The only time he felt truly himself, was after he took part in “The Circle”, where he met others of “his kind”. In contrary, Rapp who came from a lower middle class, was lucky enough to have his family’s support.

Lack of Sexual & Racial Diversification

Unlike other movies, there is no apparent white privilege shown in this movie – even the “whites” could not escape the fate of social discrimination (due to society’s inability to accept homosexuality). However, this point can be argued that there seems to lack racial diversity in the first place. Revisiting the point mentioned earlier, the movie is set in a post-war period and still under the influence of Germany’s regime. As a result, diversity was not exactly the most favorable topic at the time.

While it is understandable that the movie focuses on male homosexuality which might have an impact on the lack of female characters in the movie however, one cannot simply finish watching this movie without wondering: how about female homosexuality? In the society where women were from in the 1950s, their roles were to be a “perfect mother, obedient wives and clever homemakers” (RoobixCoob,2005) but being gay was, unfortunately, not one of them. Although homosexuality could very much be an issue for women back then, they seemed to have a much bigger issue to focus on: to fight for gender equality. The movie demonstrates how much men struggled to fight for their sexuality without the burden of their gender status in the society, one can imagine how much harder it could have been for women in addition to the gender inequality within the society. As a result, it is not surprising that the movie has chosen to put more focus on male, particularly those within the gay community.

Final Note

The Reelout Film Festival, where the movie was shown, was no fancy movie theatre; however, it provided a friendly and cozy environment for the viewers to enjoy the movie, despite a couple machinery malfunctioning. There were a lot of young viewers in the audience, but a few gay couples were spotted in the crowd. They were particularly engaged to the movie; at times, they even applaud when some of the scenes really hit home for them. This has to do with the fact that the screenwriter cleverly employed a story-telling methodology; with real Rapp and Ostertag narrating, it added a dramatic effect to the movie because it allows the narrators to tell the story from their own experiences and that played an important role in captivating viewers’ interests. Walking away from the Reelout Film Festival, had definitely left me a lot to think about.


[1] Der Kreis, The Circle. Dir. Stefan Haupt. 2014. Film.

[2] Rodgers, Lucy, Pablo G. Martin, Martyn Rees, and Steven Connor. “Where Is It Illegal to Be Gay?” BBC News. N.p., 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.

[3] RoobixCoob. “A Woman’s Role in the 1950s.” Associatedcontent from Yahoo (2005): n. pag. Print.

[4] TreeHugger CA. “When Homosexuality Was Mental Illness.” Web log post.When Homosexuality Was Mental Illness. Daily Kos, 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.

Film Review of “The Circle – Der Kreis”

4 thoughts on “Film Review of “The Circle – Der Kreis”

  1. pennatucky says:

    This is a film review, of the film the circle and that is about it. There does not seem to any critical analysis of the film, I would be interested in the reviewer’s thoughts on (what I got from the trailer) the gender bending, or cross dressing that took place in the movie with the drag performer. Or how the film depicts the oppression of homosexuality under the Nazi regime. Does the film portray the fear of discovery? What would happen if someone was found out, or could people display their same sex love or affection in public? You mention that one of the characters came from an upper class family, was he part of the elitist class, was he a member of the bourgeoisie? How did this affect him? Did being a member of this enable him to have advantage over other characters portrayed in the film? Was there any mention of race in the film, I am interested on how the film would or could look at racial diversity when it is based in a time when the Nazi regime was in place. Was there any mention of the antisemitism that was popular at the time?
    All in all it seems like you did not really read the guidelines of the assignment, or put much effort in to analyzing the film through an intersectional or critical gender/ race theory perspective. However the writing style is unequivocal and engaging, thus making it easy to read and follow.


  2. piper125 says:

    Though this was an effective glimpse into your thought process on analyzing this movie, I can’t say that I quite comprehend your intersectional analysis of the content. I am curious to know how the film addresses homosexuality, cross-dressing, and gender fluidity(if this was touched on in the film) in the context of the Nazi regime, and if you agree with the way the director represented the milieu of the characters or if you thought there was anything missing (i.e. was there any mention of race/ethnicity? If so, how did this change the day to day struggles of those characters? What about religion?)


  3. The Circle seems like a very interesting movie, especially because it is a true story. I think it is intriguing that Steven Haupt produced a movie that examines what it was like for the first gay rights organization during the Nazi period in Europe. Did you find a large comparison to how times have changed? If so, is there greater tolerance to homosexuality today? Do you think that some parts of the world still experience this type of discrimination?

    You did a great job with clearly summarizing what the film was about in your first paragraph. However, I would have liked to see more of your opinion and analysis about the film. Are there certain scenes that exemplified what it was like for gay men to escape in the circle? Did you enjoy watching this movie? Was it inspirational?

    This movie seems very interesting and I would love to take a look at it in the future.


  4. redjr21 says:

    I like that you included some context about the film; for instance, that it was set in Switzerland, and that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1942. Additionally, you mention that Switzerland is in close association with Germany, which is somewhat helpful in understanding the social climate of the time, however it raises some questions that are not addressed.

    You mention the Nazi period, however I am not sure which years you are referring to – the Holocaust, or Hitler’s rise in years prior, up to the end of the Holocaust. Prior to the World War II, homosexuality was criminalized and would be severely penalized by the Gestapo, with the passage of Paragraph 175 in Nazi Germany, which would remain a part of Germany’s law for decades following. This was utilized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and thousands of gay and lesbian Germans were placed into concentration camps, which would likely explain why the Circle was an underground movement. However, I am not exactly sure of when The Circle is in circulation, and would have appreciated more specific timelines in order to confirm the context. You stated that the film takes place in the 1950s-60s, but those who identify as gay seem to be in danger as a result of their sexual identity.

    I also like that you point out the lack of gender diversity in the film. Holocaust courses often point out that it was alleged that Hitler was more concerned with gay men than lesbians, as he felt they posed more of a threat to the Aryan race. As a result, many more gay men were placed into concentration camps than lesbians. That being said, I agree that the presence of women in the film should have been included. Additionally, the focus seems to be strictly on the gay experience, excluding one character, but it is unclear how they identify. Are they transgender, cross-dressing or gender fluid? As well, how are these themes touched upon in the film, or are they disregarded?

    You also mention that there is no issue of racial diversification in this film, as all gays were persecuted equally. Based on Hitler’s race-based ideology, I would have to argue this point. Considering that groups like Jewish people were not regarded as Aryan, racial privilege is even more significant in this time period than any other, and the same racial laws would be in place for the LGBT community.

    I think that you raise some important issues, however it is important to keep in mind the historical context when conducting your analysis when possible, as different structures of persecution were firmly in place.


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