Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

24 September 2019

The Ninth Circle (Deveti Krug) (1960)

Wow. Wow. Wow.

So, The Ninth Circle was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar the same year (1961) as Pontecorvo's Kapò, Roberto Gavaldón's brilliant Macario, and Clouzot's La Vérité (also brilliant), and they gave the damn Oscar to Bergman's boring The Virgin Spring. In any case, The Ninth Circle is very, very well made, and it is surely – with Kapò – one of the first films made about the camps. So much of the film is a love story (under Nazi duress) that I was expecting something else entirely from this film by the end – I, incorrectly, as it turns out – assumed the ninth circle was a reference to Dante's final circle of the inferno and signified the betrayals of Judas, Lucifer, and Cain.

But Deveti Krug shifts boldly in subject matter in the middle of the third act, and the ninth circle of the title turns out to be a literal section of the camp and not a literary reference to treachery. (Incidentally, Peter Weiss's The Investigation uses the circles of the Inferno as a formal way of tracking through the camps and the Nuremberg trials, and in the play we move further and further inside the camps.)

Because the movie shifted so drastically, I really wasn't prepared for the punch France Štiglic's movie delivered, and I ended up truly stunned by The Ninth Circle. Boris Dvornik, who plays the male lead, is outstanding in this.

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