"The Circle" Review

By Peter Rainer New York Magazine

The women in the Iranian movie "The Circle" are all fugitives. Two of them, on temporary leave from prison, attempt to flee; a friend of theirs who has escaped prison tries unsuccessfully to get an abortion; another woman is shown abandoning her child on the streets of Tehran; and yet another is picked up for prostitution. The stories of these disparate lives dovetail into one another, and all are given equal weight. Because of government-censorship restrictions, quite a few Iranian movies have centered on childhood rather than adult themes. In "The Circle," which is banned in Iran, the enforced society of women is, in effect, a community of adults treated as children. (Women in Tehran are not even allowed to stay outside on their own.) The film's director, Jafar Panahi, gives each of the stories a resonance, even though they are little more than linked vignettes. The ordeals these women endure are made to seem like microcosms of suffering. Panahi holds his camera on the women's faces for extended periods, and their misery and resolution come through with the force of accusation. No wonder the film has been banned.

Originally Published April 23, 2001

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