Circle (2015)

Director: Aaron Hann, Mario Miscione
Writer: Aaron Hann, Mario Miscione
Cast: Allegra Masters, Aimee McKay, Ashley Key, Carter Jenkins, Cesar Garcia, Mustafa Speaks, Daniel Lench, Daniel Yelsky, David Reivers, Howard S. Miller, Jay Hawkins, Julie Benz, Lisa Pelikan, Matt Corboy, Mercy Malick, Michael DiBacco, Michael McLafferty, Michael Nardelli, Molly Jackson, Rene Heger, Rivka Rivera, Sara Sanderson, Zachary James Rukavina
Seen on 24.1.2023

50 people come to, standing in a dark room on glowing tiles. They are standing in a circle, arrows pointing at them. It doesn’t take long and the machine at the center of the circle starts to kill people. It is quickly apparent that it is all of them who decide who lives and who dies. And so discussions and arguments begin as the machine keeps its inexorable countdown.

Circle poses some interesting questions, though it remains a little flat with them at times. As a film it is only okay, but as a thought experiment it is a good discussion starting point.

The film poster showning the circle glowing red, people positioned around it.

Circle is a thought experiment and morality tale more than a horror film. Apart from the initial confusion, it is never really preoccupied with making you scared or unsettled, but rather with engaging you in a debate about what arguments can be made about what life may be more valuable than others. It touches on various -isms along the way – ageism easily agreed upon, racism a little more hotly contested, but not really for a long time, ableism interestingly enough not touched upon at all, and neither sexism, really. (If you wanna hear my theory on that – the argument that the disabled couldn’t have worthy lives is too real, as it is exactly what the Nazis argued and is still a very popular opinion, albeit in a more subtle way. Whereas sexism doesn’t hinge so much on the fact that women should all die, but that they should fill particular roles. of course, if you don’t fulfill those roles, hunting season is open.)

The film wants to examine those arguments, though it doesn’t really do much with them, I thought. The only real take-away I got from it is that some people are assholes, and assholes are the most despensable. I can go along with that (I am not arguing for a death penalty for shitty behavior). There are just so many characters that we only get to spend very little time with each of them (and I’m pretty sure that if you counted talking minutes, it’s the white dudes who dominate the conversation and the film). Since they don’t really count as individuals but as representatives of their groups, this is not as much of a problem as it would have been in other films, but I still found myself wishing that there had been fewer people in the circle.

The group standing around the circle as it glows white.

The film is a little too busy with getting to the debate part. That means that people figure out the absurd rules of their situation really quickly – comically so, if you ask me. But you just have to take this in stride. At least the film doesn’t overstay its welcome with its short runtime, although I kept wondering how much time was supposed to have passed within the story. The ending was definitely strong, though.

Overall, it’s interesting and gives you some things to discuss, but it works much more as a prompt for a philosophy or sociology class than a film in its own right.

Some of the people around the circle.

Summarizing: if you like moral quandaries, you will enjoy this.

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