Krugovi (Circles, 2013)
A heroic act during the Yugoslav war haunts the lives of the heroes. Concentric circles of fate can bring atonement. Directed by Srdan Golubović.
Modern Serbian cinema in the past years is trying to leave behind the themes that are dealing with the civil war. To a large extent this has been achieved with worth-noted films and distinguishing filmmakers. Srdan Golubović belongs to this category since he became well-known with his neo-noir film Klopka (The Trap, 2007). After an absence of five years Golubović returns with his latest movie entitled Krugovi (Circles, 2013) where he examines for the first time the effects of the civil war through a different perspective. The film participated in the Forum of the 63rd Berlin Film Festival and won the Audience Award for the Best Feature Film at 19th Sarajevo Film Festival.
The story begins in 1993 in the small town Trebinje of Southern Bosnia during the war. Marko (Vuk Kostic), a Serbian soldier, is witnessing three of his comrades brutally attacking Haris (Leon Lucev), a Muslim kiosk owner, for an unimportant reason. Marko decides to intervene and save him, but he will pay this act with his life. His friend Nebojsa (Nebojsa Glogovac) who was there did not have a chance to react. The story continues in 2005 and a series of random events will reveal that Marko has not been forgotten. Haris is now living in Germany and is trying to hide Marko’s ex-girlfriend from her violent husband. Ranko (Aleksandar Bercek), Marko’s father, wants to rebuild a church in Trebinje and accepts as worker the son of one his son’s murders. Finally, Nebojsa works as a surgeon in Belgrade and has to save the life of one of the murderers of his friend. Twelve years later, while the heroes have left behind the war, they should face again their common past.
Krugovi is a slow-burning bleak drama of strong characters and very difficult situations. Golubović is using a real event that happened during the war to build his film around it. Although Marko appears only for a few minutes at the beginning, his presence and especially his selfless act is what haunts the entire film and is of course the sole reason for its existence. Without his heroic act the six main characters could still remain strangers. But now they are all inextricably tied and nothing could break these bonds which have been already inherited to the younger generations. Thus it is conveyed a broader and deeper social problem. The initial division of the war, which was actually the main reason of this tragic incident, can theoretically belong to the past and perhaps some people have succeeded to overcome it. But it is practically impossible to measure and calculate on a reasonable basis all the effects and the wounds that has left behind. Especially when the psychological impact could be almost an unknown term since someone is carrying such a loss as something entirely irreplaceable, something very personal and perhaps sometimes hidden.
Srdan Golubović’s decision to deal with such a delicate, even for himself, issue also depicts the superficial rapid progress of Serbian society in the last twenty years. Outwardly it appears to be a society that has overcome the war and now is looking forward, but if someone notices this discrete extroversion can also observe the darkness that always remains inside. The heroes of Krugovi are typical examples of this acquainted Balkan temperament that requires them to bury the past that they want to forget and try to exorcise it with their actions today. They believe that this is the only way to get out of an archetypal inevitable circle in which they entered against their will, but they also know that their efforts are futile. The remembrance of Marko will be the only motivation for Haris to reciprocate the help as a way of personal atonement, Ranko should overcome and understand the pain and Nebojsa must place his moral and professional duty over his hate. This is a new challenge for each one of them. It is an internal, this time, war that they have to live again and that will force them to revive their memories in order to find the required strength for the new encounters. Besides during these past twelve years they have accepted their fate; that they belong to the same Circle and they are forced every day to remember everything they want to forget.
Without a doubt the central idea of the film could possibly raise political historical and philosophical questions and could offer a more theoretical extension to the tragedy. This does not happen. Golubović brings the whole issue in the first person and to the shadows-people that one tragic-heroic moment left behind. Krugovi is not the appropriate place to resolve all the unsolved issues of this war. It is a film where some of war’s unknown dreadful consequences are depicted through bleak and persuasive realism. Furthermore, despite the fact that the plot is set in a specific chronological and geographical moment, the story could evolve at the same degree anywhere else and even with different protagonists. So the message could apply to an ecumenical audience and certainly it is not limited locally. Finally it is not given a clear answer to whether a heroic act could be meaningful or not. No one knows what is right and as Marko’s father is wondering his son could have been killed in vain or his death could upset their lives as when you throw a stone in the water and these Circles appear that are slowly spreading.
Krugovi is a movie of atonement for everyone and even more for Srdan Golubović himself. During the war, the director was studying in Belgrade and even though he was so close to the events he could not do anything to react. By using as inspiration perhaps the only positive war story that he ever heard he is also exorcizing his own personal guilt from the past.