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CIRCLE OF DECEIT

Germany / France, 1981 (MIFF 1982)

Director: Volker Schlondorff

In 1975, Georg Laschen, a top correspondent for a large German periodical, is assigned to cover the civil war in Lebanon. Georg is married to Greta, herself a writer, but theirs is a barren relationship, devoid of mutual respect and understanding.

Partly out of selfishness, and partly due to sheer lassitude, Georg doesn't have the will to end his marriage. As he departs for Lebanon, he expresses a fear that his entire life may become a forgery, full of false motions, emotions and relationships. Flying into Beirut, Georg begins to draft a letter to Greta asking for a separation. He writes it but does not send it.

Georg has come to Lebanon with many pre-conceptions about the war. Checking into the hotel where the foreign correspondents headquarter, he runs into several old colleagues of all nationalities and persuasions, each giving him his or her personal interpretation of the Lebanese conflict. But Georg barely listens: by his own admission, he (like his magazine) has a pro-Palestinian bias, and he chooses to see things in that way. As he puts it, his article was "ready, even before landing". Early in his stay, Georg visits the almost abandoned German embassy and there runs into Ariane Nassar, an old acquaintance of his, who has lived and worked in Lebanon for a number of years. Ariane has been married to a Lebanese, now deceased, and has chosen to stay on, maintaining her husband's home and family obligations.

That night, Ariane invites Georg to her home for dinner and stresses that he must come before nightfall and spend the whole night; it is impossible to venture forth into Beirut after dark because the whole city literally turns into an open battlefield ...

Circle of Deceit is a bold and extremely graphic film of crisis: the journalist's employment and domestic crises, his floundering, is paralleled by the background devastation of civil war in Lebanon. A war which is depicted in the film in such a fashion that it is almost impossible to analyse who is fighting whom.

Volker Schlondorff is one of the leading German directors to emerge in the 1960s. His career denotes an interest in the graphic presentation of the individual caught up in violent historical events (The Tin Drum, The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kolmbach, Katherina Blum). Circle of Deceit is a worthy addition to his outstanding career.

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