Der Kreis Switzerland 2014 – 102min.
Zurich, at the end of the 1950’s. Although legal, homosexuality is still not accepted and “Der Kreis” – the Circle – is a clandestine organization that offers a rare opportunity for freedom and expression to its members through its publications, balls and friendships. The shy Ernst Ostertag meets Röbi Rapp, a singer and drag queen with whom he falls in love. The two men try to be a couple even as the authorities crack down on what they see is a degenerate organization.
This movie is balanced between the history of the movement and the love story of two men. The director seems to dither between his script and his historical ambitions, ending up with something that is neither really a documentary nor a reconstruction of events. The fault lies with these two passionate stories, which both struggle to express themselves and are both worthy of being told. The first, a little-known piece of Swiss history, tells of the Circle’s attempt at homosexual emancipation through clandestine publications and activist balls, until it was finally beaten down by repeated attacks by the police. At the heart of the organization is a love story between two men who eventually became the first same-sex couple in Switzerland to officially register their partnership 2002. Director Stefan Haupt avoids the politics in favor of the human aspect of his story, concentrating on the difficulties Ernst faces with his employer and his family, his wish to be himself without hurting anyone – which contrasts with Röbi’s free and protesting attitude. The sad end of the Circle as an organization is juxtaposed with the romantic happy end, the story of activists with that of the personal triumph of the two lovers. The best parts of the film are its directed scenes, while the interviews with Ernst and Röbi – even though moving in their own way – don’t add much to the memory of the gay movement in German-speaking Switzerland.