We live in a world of labels. People face them everyday in our society by assigning race, color, religion, financial status and education to people and ideas. In the end, this leaves us filled with prejudices against each other. These prejudices and their value to each individual are what stand at the core of the psychological sci-fi thriller “Circle” (2015).
In their debut film, directors Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione explore how deeply these preconceived notions are embedded in people’s minds and how they determine who lives and who dies.
In the film, 50 strangers wake up in dark room facing each other, with a killing machine at the center. Without the memory of how they got there and who their captors are, the group is horrified to learn that every two minutes one of them will die. The twist, however, is that what they believed to be a random killing is actually decided by a vote by none other than themselves.
With just a slight movement of their hand they are able to move the arrow to point to a person they think deserves to die next. But how do they decide who gets to live another two minutes and who gets to be the last man standing in this twisted social experiment?
The group immediately starts categorizing people into boxes by their age, race and occupation. People age 60 and older are the first to go because they “will die first anyway,” while those young and healthy go above and beyond to prove they are most deserving to survive. Some of the characters presented to us include a husband, a wife, a soldier, an Asian, a criminal, a non-English speaker and a white American. They are are then rated against each other on who is next to be killed.
However, it becomes much more complicated when a pregnant woman and a little girl come into play. That’s when the doomed members of the circle are forced to evaluate their morals and values and decide how far they are willing to go to save their own life.
The film dives deep into the social problems of our time. The camera places the audience inside the circle and gets inside our heads to join the life-or-death dialogue. The close-ups of each next possible victim make us face them and, regardless of whether we want, decide their fate ourselves.
As we see the characters battle it out and witness volunteers die since they feel they have nothing to live for, it triggers a conversation within ourselves as to what we value most and what we would do in the same situation.
While the film’s attempts to address social problems are beautifully done, leaving a bit of uncertainty in the end would have made a stronger finale. This would have allowed the audience to come up with their own theories. Aside from the ending, the film is definitely worth checking out if you are not afraid to be trapped in a circle with 50 strangers and look in the mirror to learn about yourself and society as a whole.
“As filmmakers, we’ve always sought out the complex stories hiding behind a simple concept,” said Hann and Miscione. “That, without a doubt, is ‘Circle.’ A film that, at its core, is an exploration of the many answers to one very fundamental question: ‘How do you determine the value of a human life?’”
The “Circle” will make its world premiere on Thursday, May 28, at 9 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown (511 Queen Anne Ave. N.), with a second screening on Friday, May 29, at 1:15 p.m., as a part of the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival Catalyst program. Both directors are scheduled to attend to answer what they believe determines the value of human life. For ticket information, visit www.siff.net/festival-2015/circle.