So many films and books are entitled The Circle , you are forgiven if, at first, the title of this new documentary from Estonian director, Margit Lillak feels lukewarm. However, its 95 minutes are cut from five years of patiently observing the growth and fracturing of what the director calls «the very first Estonian eco-community» – a dozen adults together with their young children create a viable, ecological way of life in a tight cluster of neglected buildings on 33 hectares of arable land somewhere in Estonia.
The circle, in this case, is especially their preferred seating arrangement when they meet to address tensions and troubles – including conflicting views on how to raise children, for example. Love is the big answer, but how to put this into practice is hard and this film indicates how different ways of managing communal decision-making can work. Change may have to start from within, but that’s the same place where sexual attractions and jealousies lurk. The room in which the circle forms is usually uncluttered, fresh, and wooden-walled; the windows are curtain-less. This is the safe zone in which real anger and cathartic physical expression can purge the hurt, and sometimes reconcile needs, in a dynamic process of peaceful cohabitation.
Ironically or perhaps poetically, a triangle causes the circle we first encounter in the film, to crackle: two women love the same man, but he has a marriage and children with one of them already and we learn how unresolved tensions taint the whole community. Very little of how others have to live with this tension appears in the film, but as triangle meets circle we are, most of the time, at eye-level with whoever speaks; the material is direct, the camera usually discreet. I am surprised by the candor of the moments, and the willingness of the community to expose itself as much as it appears to have done. Intense dialogue and confrontational scenes are interspersed with everyday life for the children who are, frankly, often more interesting. Some struggle more openly with this new way of life, miss friends from their old …
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