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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.73%
Worth A Look63.64%
Average: 4.55%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 9.09%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Circle, The (2001)
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by Greg Muskewitz

"The prisoners of Iran."
4 stars

A couple weeks ago we had “The Day I Became a Woman,” a series of three vignettes directed by an Iranian woman. Now we have “The Circle,” similarly from Iran (also a co-produced from Italy) concerning the same topic — women — but this time directed by a man, Jafar Panahi. While both movies have completely different ways on examining its subject, “The Circle” is a superior illustration of the same answer.

The movie opens with a blinding white background and slowly gives way to a maternity ward. The mother of the woman who has apparently just given birth, is waiting in a lobby room waiting to find out what sex it is. She’s told it’s a girl, but doesn’t believe it (“It was supposed to be a boy”) so she checks again, only to give more cause for fretting. (She must tell the husband’s family the news.) As they begin to dismay over the news, the camera follows some people down the stairs and sets its sight on a trio of young women attempting to make a phone call. One is arrested, for no good reason it seems (possibly because they already escaped from prison, but it's still unclear), and it sends the other two running. Their motives are ambiguous, but it seems they are trying to get somewhere. Before you know it, plans don’t turn out as designed, and when one of the girls returns to the city to find another friend, the movie shifts focus from her, and then onto another, and so forth.

When I first left the theater, I wasn’t too impressed by the movie. Here we are given all these characters (the movie, rotating in a circle, ends up with all the female characters in a jail at the end, fading to black, which suggests death) of whom we are dumped from one to the next without any development of explanation. We have learned zero about any of these women — their present or future — and each time it seems we may be getting somewhere, we are shouldered off onto another. The women depicted all shared one thing in common: they lacked identities. The more I examined the movie afterwards, the more I saw that the negligence to their development and personalities was done on purpose to prove its point, which is because all of these women are the same, as are all women, and they serve no good purpose. (Please, don’t mistake Iran’s point-of-view on women for my own.) While I certainly don’t think Panahi is agreeing with Iran on this either, he is going for cinema vérité, so he makes no abridgements to the way the society has treated these “inferior” women. The most poignant and derelict sequence was the opening one, in which the old woman worried about the birth of the girl and the other family’s threat of divorce if it was a girl. Nothing somes up the sentiments any clearer or more harsh than that little glimpse. Panahi’s movie just goes to show how much of a circular prison all of Iran is to women who are so deprived in all forms of their rights; we here in the United States don’t realize how easy we have it compared to so many of these other countries. As much as it’s no pleasure to learn about, “The Circle,” ends up drawing a lasting impression on the worthlessness and lack of identities of women in Iran, not just in the movie, but in the real life circumstances as well. Still, the movie still proves to be a bit of a bore throughout all of the excursions it takes.

With Mariam Palvin Almani, Nargess Mamizadeh, Fereshteh Sadr Orfani and Elham Saboktakin. Written by Kambozia Partovi.

Final Verdict: B.

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originally posted: 06/26/01 10:01:06
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User Comments

11/26/10 Sia Shar what can i say?not good,not bad,...... 3 stars
2/28/04 liang i still want to be a women in my next circle life 4 stars
2/12/03 Michael Abraham Very good movie 4 stars
10/31/02 vaheed parte 1 stars
8/28/02 viking A courageous and poignant statement 5 stars
7/12/02 Annya a great film!!! 5 stars
5/22/02 Payam Fotouhipour It is not a film. it is a self-vitamination for western festivals. 1 stars
5/14/02 Takin Great Movie 5 stars
3/15/02 saman samani 5 stars
1/04/02 ali eslami iran 5 stars
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