Circle of Deceit
CIRCLE OF DECEIT
aka, FALSE WITNESS
(DIE FALSCHUNG) 1981
Director: Volker Schlondorff

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Circle of Deceit The noirish score combines with a crude imitation of the theme from Dr Zhivago (1965) to give Circle of Deceit (Die Falschung, 1981) the general tone of a British thriller, but with such gloomy doomful philosophizing on the part of the angst-ridden hero that it also feels like an Iron Curtain spy film. It is neither.

The German film was adapted from a novel by Nicolas Born. The dour tone begins long before our hero is in any situation worthy of gloom, so just a natural sad-sack about to have his worldview of misery justified.

Greta Laschen (Gila von Weitershausen) is a bored, angry, unhappy wife & Georg Laschen (Bruno Ganz) a frustrated abusive husband; both utterly ignore their children. All Georg can do for himself -- which is nothing for his family -- is to live apart & pursue his work as a journalist as much as possible in distant places.

And so it's off to the mid-east to report on the war that has broken out between Palestinians & Lebanese Christians. Beirut is a world unto itself, with skirmishes in the streets at night, snipers by day, sudden pointless death always looming.

Circle of DeceitIn this surreal world, snipers turn out to be civilized men; children play "war" in the midst of actual war; entire neighborhoods in utter & complete ruin are still inhabited; a tiny boy packs a bazooka; a kif-smoking old woman sits on a balcony to watch the night's exciting "fireworks" of battle; & a journalist hunkers down behind sandbags wondering what to report when every minute contains a thousand fearful, surprising incidents.

Such international thrillers with an axe to grind can be very ho-hum but Bruno Ganz pulls this one together by his considerable screen presence. Visually well done & intelligently edited, I was occasionally reminded, by the assertion of war's surreality, of Apocalypse Now (1979) which is frequently dream-like & expressionistic but in total as real as raw documentary footage.

Georg begins to have an affair with the widowed Ariana Nassar (Hanna Schygulla). There is a part of each of them that enjoys the chaos & danger, feeling immortal for every day they're still alive. Ariana says, "Aren't these glorious days? I don't even have to go to the office."

Before he's back in Germany, Laschen will become as inhumanly violent as the people he had come to observe. His experiences will have left him unsettled, no longer the man he was, & yet, absurdly, it all added up to only a newspaper story. A fine, subtly unsettling film with just "enough to say" to be consequential but never merely didactic.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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