"The Circle" (Dayereh) is an Iranian film from Jafar Panahi who also directed "The White Balloon "in 95' and "The Mirror" in 97'. "The Circle" won the Venice Film Festival's top prize (The Golden Lion) for the year 2000. Panahi is also credited as the assistant director of Abbas Kiarostami's 94' film, "Through the Olive Trees".

 

It was filmed with many stylistic elements of a documentary including only two professional actresses in the cast. "The Circle"s title is a representation of many things; the elliptical structure of the film, beginning and ending with the same shot. Also, Panahi mentions a theme of a "circle of repression" and throughout the film are a number of circle motifs in the environment that the major characters are interacting within (ex. the mall, the theatre entrance, the prison cell etc.).

The Circle

a film by Jafar Panahi

Review of the film and Fox/Lorber DVD by Gary W. Tooze

The story touches on the lives of eight females characters passing off brief episodes from one another in the course of a day. Each tells a story in pain and coping of their modern day oppression in Iranian society.

The Innocent: Nargess (pictured above left) - Played by non-professional actress Nargess Mamizadeh (name translates into "flower"). A wide-eyed innocent who fashions her desires around a relationship (coyly observing a well dressed man drinking water) and visions in a painting of her home city where she imagines as a paradise in which to flee. Like all women in the film she exhibits strong characteristics of survival.

The Desperate: Pari (pictured above right) portrayed by professional actress Fereshteh Sadr Orfani who played the Mother in "The White Balloon". The character of Pari has recently been released from jail and now has abandoned her parole. After a squabble with her family finds herself on the streets, 4-months pregnant and unmarried.

The Mercenary: Elham (pictured below left in white)- played by non-professional actress Elham Saboktakin. Her character is a nurse who is married to a Pakistani doctor. She pays as price for her happiness as she lives in fear, telling constant lies to never divulge her shaded past to her husband. She cannot even travel with him to his homeland as she fears being caught at the border. In the scene below left she both figuratively and physically turns her back on Pari's desperate circumstances, rather than chance creating problems for her current situation.

The Obliging: Monir - (bottom right, driving) portrayed again by a non-professional; Monir Arab. After her long prison sentence Monir finds her husband has taken a second wife who has become much closer to her daughter than she presently is. Living as if in the 1940's "French resistance", Monir try's her best to help out many of the other oppressed women survive in their current circumstances.

The other four range from a forlorn and confused older woman (Nayereh) who keeps attempting to give away her young daughter in the hopes of a better life for the young girl down the road, to a disaffected prostitute (Mojgan) who cares to no longer lie to others or herself about the situation that they are living in.
Panahi uses other symbols in the film to link back to oppression. Many of the characters are attempting to smoke a cigarette but always aware of the societal taboo for women to do so publicly. The "chandor" (Islamic head dress) is a regulatory tool of male dominated repression, but is constantly used by many of the female characters to cloak themselves, hiding from the ever present authorities.  With a first scene of over three and a half minutes Panahi sets the pace of a documentary style film with the camera jumping about as he follows the initial hurrying women. As it progresses each character is viewed in a slower, more languid, pace till the end contains a strong static shot of Mojgan on the bus.

It is a heartfelt exploration of a cultural phenomenon that most viewers of the film will be initially unaware of. It is made with total precision and I strongly recommend it. out of

The initial scene has the closing of a delivery room door hatch after the catastrophic news that the birth is that of a girl, not a boy. In the final shot a similar looking door gate is closed, but this time inside a prison cell that holds some of the characters we have just traveled with. Both subtle and powerful at the same time, this film is a masterpiece. 

Film and DVD Details

Perhaps the best Fox/Lorber DVD I own with a bright clear image, acceptable sound quality, removable sub-titles and some valued extras.

One of the best features seen on a DVD is the inclusion of a 21 minute interview with director Jafar Panahi produced by film professor Jamsheed Akrami. The interview was conducted in September of 2000 at the screening of "The Circle" at the New York Film Festival. 

Most pleasant for my ears was to hear Panahi admit adherence to Andrie Tarkovsky's edict of "not creating a film for any audience", as he deems it "...if films were made with an audience in mind, no great work of art would ever be created with any sense of integrity". Amen. A solid DVD -   out of

Credited cast overview:

Nargess Mamizadeh .... Nargess 
Maryiam Palvin Almani .... Arezou 
Mojgan Faramarzi .... Prostitute 
Elham Saboktakin .... Nurse 
Monir Arab .... Ticket Seller 
Solmaz Panahi .... Solmaz 
Fereshteh Sadr Orfani .... Pari 
Fatemeh Naghavi .... Mother 

Also Known As: 
Cerchio, Il (2000) (Italy)
Circle, The (2000) (International: English title) 
Runtime: 90 
Country: Iran / Italy 
Language: Farsi 
Color: Color 
Sound Mix: Mono 
Certification: Argentina:13 / Chile:14 / France:U / Norway:11 / Peru:14 / Spain:7 / Sweden:7 / Switzerland:12 (canton of Geneva) / Switzerland:12 (canton of Vaud) / USA:Unrated 

Technical Information

Release Information:
Studio: Fox Lorber
Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 2000
DVD Release Date: December 11, 2001
Run Time: 91 minutes

Edition Details:
Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
 Color, Widescreen

 

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