Circle, The (2014): Stefan Haupt’s Tale of Gay Life and Arts in Zurich of Yesteryear (LGBTQ, Gay)

Written and directed by Stefan Haupt, The Circle, which was Switzerland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, concerns a social network of gay men in Zurich in the 1940s and 1950s.

The avenue of communication was a gay publication named “The Circle,” which sponsored and advertised all kinds of social and cultural events.

Gay Directors, by Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press).

The lack of legal proscription against homosexuals, and Zurich’s growing notoriety, provide the context for the growth of a publication that overtly catered to gay readership while avoiding explicit materials, both in prose and illustrations, in order to meet the standards of Swiss censorship.

As the police investigate three murders of gay men, they accuse “The Circle” and its subscribers of making Zurich an international center of gay tourism.

At the center of the movie is the bond between Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, a schoolteacher and a drag performer, respectively.  The two men met through the magazine’s inner circle and began a lifelong romantic relationship.

Interviews with them and other survivors and experts on the era are interspersed with documentary footage and photographs, as well as a scripted dramatic enactment of the story.

The couple are portrayed by Matthias Hungerbühler and Sven Schelker, and there are interviews with the real-life Ostertag and Rapp.

Matthias Hungerbühler – Ernst Ostertag
Sven Schelker [de] – Röbi Rapp
Anatole Taubman – Felix
Peter Jecklin [de] – Principal Dr. Max Sieber
Marianne Sägebrecht – Erika
Antoine Monot, Jr. – Gian
Marie Leuenberger [de] – Gabi Gerster
Stefan Witschi – Rolf

Critical Status

The film won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival, as well as the Panorama Audience Award.

American distribution rights were subsequently acquired by Wolfe Video.

It was selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 87th Academy Awards, but it was not nominated. Director Stefan Haupt said “it’s an honor to represent Switzerland