Part documentary, part narrative feature film, The Circle is a moving tribute to a life-long relationship that overcame intense obstacles and an insightful look at an important chapter in gay history.
Winner of the prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, The Circle tells the true story of Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, a schoolteacher and a drag entertainer, who met through their participation in a social network of gay men that developed in Zurich in the 1940s and 1950s. The two began romantic relationship. Interviews with them and other survivors and experts on the era are interspersed with documentary film and photographs as well as a scripted dramatic enactment of the story.
Founded in the early ’40s, the network around the magazine ‘Der Kreis’ (‘The Circle’) was the only gay organisation to survive the Nazi regime. It blossomed during the post-war years into an internationally renowned underground club.
Legendary masked balls at the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich provided visitors from all over Europe with a secret and safe space to act out their ‘otherness’ in a self-determined way. It is there that timid teacher Ostertag falls in love with drag star Rapp. Ernst searches for a way to fight for his gayness to be accepted as normal outside the boundaries of ‘The Circle’ network without losing his employment as a teacher. Röbi champions the joint fruition of their love.
Following a murder in the gay community, violent repression against gay people also endangers ‘The Circle’ network. Stefan Haupt’s riveting film uncovers the fascinating universe of one of the first gay liberation communities. Enriched by impressive conversational records with Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, the film depicts a decades-long love story – made taboo by society – and reveals the couple’s inspiring self-knowledge and courage.