The time proceeding and during the Second World War was a particularly difficult period in history to be gay. With the rise of Nazi Germany and historical prejudices, homosexuality was illegal in much of Western Europe. Switzerland seemed like a safe haven in an increasingly dark world, where people could, to a certain extent, be fairly open about their sexual preferences. This is where The Circle (Der Kreis) made its base; the only gay underground magazine to continue to be published through the Third Reich.
Stefan Haupt’s docudrama The Circle focusses on the lives of Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp. Brought together by The Circle, the couple met before the war; one an English teacher, the other a drag performer. The story of the magazine and their lives is told both through current-day interviews and dramatic depiction (the pair are played by Matthias Hungerbühler and Sven Schelker respectively). Their tale highlights what it was like to live and work under a growing oppression, police brutality and under a constant growing threat.
Whilst it takes a while to adjust to the mix between the dramatisation and interview, this proves to be a clever form of storytelling. The couple’s personal stories really encapsulate what it must have felt to live during that period in history. The recreation of events around the magazine, the balls, and their lives brings that era to life. Meat is added to the bones of the story through the interviews with those involved; cleverly propelling the action forward and filling-in the blanks. The Circle is a carefully made feature. A historical document painted in vivid colours.
The Circle is released on DVD by Matchbox Films on January 26.