Circles (2013) — Image via emotionfilm.si

Circles

Directed by Srdan Golubović (2013)

Set during and after the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Srdan Golubović’s Circles (Krugovi) examines the long-term impact of a single act of decency amidst the inhumanity of ethnic violence. Based on a true story, Circles comes across as a sincere effort to grapple with questions of responsibility and justice in the context of the former Yugoslavia’s still recent history of violent separation.

The film begins in 1993 in Trebinje, a city in Herzegovina populated primarily by ethnic Serbs, where Marko (Vuk Kostić), a soldier in the Bosnian Serb army, is home on leave. Marko visits in turn with his father, Ranko (Aleksandar Berček); his girlfriend, Nada (Hristina Popović); and his friend Nebojša (Nebojša Glogovac). While he is playing chess on the square with Nebojša, he witnesses a group of fellow soldiers, led by local big-shot Todor (Boris Isaković), beating up Haris (Leon Lučev), a Muslim street vendor who has chosen to remain in the city despite the conflict.

Circles (2013) — Image via emotionfilm.siMarko attempts to intervene, at which point the film jumps forward to 2005 and the audience is given an opportunity to see what has come of these characters. Haris, now living in Germany with a wife and two children, is contacted by Nada, who has also been living in Germany and needs help getting herself and her son away from her abusive husband. Nebojša, now a surgeon living in Belgrade, is called in to operate on a car accident victim, whom he discovers to be Todor. Ranko, still living in Trebinje, is trying to rebuild a church that has been displaced by a new power plant, and he grudgingly hires Bogdan (Nikola Rakočević) — whose connection to the events that took place 12 years earlier is initially unclear— to assist him.

As we move back and forth between these three occasionally intersecting stories, we gradually learn what happened to Marko and how everyone connected with these events has been affected by them in the years since. Throughout the film, the characters are haunted by both the dehumanizing legacy of the war and the humanizing resonance of Marko’s benevolent action, and they are given many opportunities, small and large, to choose between the examples set by each.

While Circles‘s relatively straightforward humanistic message does not break any new ground, the quality of the acting, storytelling, and imagery makes the film a worthwhile experience. Veteran actor Berček, in particular, deserves praise for his curmudgeonly portrayal of Ranko, and cinematographer Aleksandar Ilić seems to capture the essence of locations ranging from the BMW plant where Haris works to the windswept hilltop where Ranko is building his church. Altogether, the cast and crew of Circles do justice to the film’s compelling story.

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.