Volker Schlöndorff’s humanist Circle of Deceit charts the many moral quandaries encountered by journalist Georg Laschen (Bruno Ganz) when he’s sent to Beirut to catalog the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. Viciously absorbed into the unpredictable chaos that erupts around him, Georg comes to question his subjective approach to the war while trying to put an end to his devastated relationship with his wife back home and negotiate the parasitic journalists who soullessly trade in images of the dead. Not unlike Fassbinder’s Pioneers in Ingolstadt (which also starred the iconic Hanna Schygulla), Circle of Deceit is troublesomely hung up on a metaphoric love-is-war dialectic that works for Schlöndorff more than it did for Fassbinder if only because the approach here is considerably more folkloric. Maurice Jarr’s sinister, almost childlike score is a work of subversive genius that exaggerates the rampant cynicism and hypocrisy the film simultaneously embodies and parades throughout its 108 minutes. “A very good photographer. He only sees what he sees. He leaves the doubting to me,” says Georg of his photographer friend, a man so unmoved by even the most gruesome deaths that he will only record it if it coddles his predetermined notions of aesthetic truth. However glib Georg’s marital problems are in comparison to the horrors he experiences on the streets of war-torn Beirut, Schlöndorff is valiantly concerned with bringing some semblance of logic to wars with unexplained beginnings and uncertain endings. A Hollywood film would have freed Georg by film’s end; here, the man returns to his wife more confused than ever. The film’s rain-drenched finale ravishingly evokes the horror of being trapped in a situation with no apparent way out.
- Kino International
- 108 min
- Volker Schlöndorff
- Jean-Claude Carrière, Kai Hermann, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta
- Bruno Ganz, Hanna Schygulla, Jean Carmet, Jerzy Skolimowski, Gila von Weitershausen, Peter Martin Urtel, John Munro
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