So I got this tweet a couple of days from one of you… and because I want you to know that I listen to you, and care very much about what you want to hear we are here. First, the tweet. @tayoflore Curious if you saw the movie Circle (2015) & what you thought – saw on Netflix & loved concept-very “what would I do?” morality — Happy Pancake (@PowrdByPancakes) August 16, 2016 And actually, kudos to you Pancake, because dang, is this movie the very center of my wheel house. Sometimes I venture out to popular movies like Batman vs. Superman or Star wars or what have you but that is not what I do best. Movies that are nearly incomprehensible are my forté. Usually most movies that are hard to understand include fullon time travel paradoxes, or Ouroboros-esque movies that cycle out into the infinite. But I have had some success with you all on more normal films like The Prestige, Sicario, and a whole host of other more normal films that just didn’t completely make sense. But Circle? Circle is EVERYTHING that spins my gears. Let’s see, we have Science Fiction – Check. Complex morality implications – check. In depth Philosophy diving – Check. Low budget, high concept, fantastic script, minimalist style, controversial ideas, Check, Check, Check, Check, and Check. This movie has everything. My Review and Explanation of the Movie Circle If you are unfamiliar with the movie, you will soon have to leave, but before you do – let me get you hooked on this crack. The movie begins with 50 people. Five Zero. Standing, in a dark room. They are all unconscious. But soon, one of the fifty wakes. Then another. And then it because super clear that they can’t move off their spots, or touch another person without something very bad happening. And soon people start dying. And ultimately, this group of Fifty, nope, Forty nine, nope, forty eight… need to figure out what is going on, or they are all going to die. Is it a psychopath’s twisted fantasy being played out? Is it an alien invasion experiment? No one has any idea at all. Here, watch the trailer, then… I’m sorry, but you are going to need to leave until you’ve seen the film. Fair enough? But I totally want you to see the film, and come participate in the conversation that I guarantee will get even more complicated than the movie itself. Yeah, this thing has so so acting. Hyper-minimalist sets (I think we have one set in the entire movie until the last 2 minutes?), and even less in the way of special effects. I personally can’t imagine how these guys got 50 stereotypical individuals of every different walk of life to participate in this small film. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would have killed (see what I’m doing there?) to get in this movie. That would have been awesome! But some of the most minimal movies are the best to discuss, because they are more about their ideas and less about excitement, or special effects. Right? Circle the Movie Overview Sometimes when we go down the rabbit hole way too fast we lose people. So let’s talk through what actually happens in this movie. Like, just practically speaking. We’ll leave the philosophical conjecturing til later… but, oh I promise we will get to that soon enough. So what the heck happened? The very beginning of the movie is all about the initial shock of this situation. The people wake and quickly begin freaking out. It is here that we learn the rules of the Movie Circle. Oh, are there rules in this movie. Rule #1 – No stepping off your circle. If you step off your circle you will die quicker than any other rule being broken. Rule #2 – No touching other people. That well set off a warning alarm. No one dies in the movie after touching someone, but it’s safe to assume that they would have, if they continued. Rule #3 – Every few minutes someone random will die. Unless they vote. Rule #4 – The person with the most votes will die. Rule #5 – You cannot vote for yourself. Rule #5 – In the case of a tie – crazy stuff happens. But generally speaking, if the voters don’t intervene, both will die. Rule #6 – In the case of a tie, the voters can vote amongst the two, or even change their vote to someone else… which actually plays a significant part as this movie progresses. Figuring these rules out cost a significant number of lives. This movie has the highest mortality rate of any movie I have ever seen. Like, not even World War Z or Zombieland comes close. People pop by violent electrical shock over and over again. But as the players start to figure out what is going on, the movie goes from shock, to stereotypical profiling, to then game playing. And moves through these stages fairly briskly. And I’ll talk more about each stage in a second. But as we approach the last few players we are left with a very ‘benevolent’ guy that has been orchestrating the survival of a girl and a pregnant woman. Good guy right?! Nope. And when this guy wins the game, he assumes he is about to be let out, because he is the last man standing. Right? Except nope. The beeping count down continues… and he knows he’s about to die to. They had been assuming that last person would be released. But now he realizes this wouldn’t be the case. But instead of dying he’s in a tie. A TIE?!? What is happening here? Well, normally the dead get dragged away by some unknown force, but this time the pregnant woman’s feet are still on the pad, and the last remaining person is in a tie with the pregnant woman’s fetus. Which, is an interesting comment in it’s own right. But right now I’m just trying to marshal my way through the details of what physically happened. So I’ll leave that until later. We find out later, in a voice over, that in that tie, because of Rule number Five, the people can’t vote for themselves… and the fetus couldn’t vote, the guy won that stalemate and the fetus was killed next. And then, for the first time, we leave the dark room. And we see the guy (I think his name is Eric? Please understand, that it is nearly impossible to keep all these quickly disappearing names straight) in an aqueduct (which, as an ex-Angeleno, is a uniquely brilliant location to have them end up in) surrounded by other people staring into the sky… watching alien ships float across the sky. Are these other ‘winners’/’survivors’? Just random people? We don’t know. Cue the credits. Right? Is that what you took away from what physically happened? Let’s make sure we get the really basic basics squared, because it’s about to get crazy up in here. The Three Phases of the Movie Circle As I mentioned above, there were three phases or cycles of discovery as the movie progressed. Almost like the Kübler-Ross cycle of grief, we sort of grow in our acceptance and discovery of the situation as it unveils before us. It starts out with discovery. The rules and the what of this experience. Then it moves on to a phase of stereotyping and moral justifying. And then finally it moves into a gamification of the situation. Each one is important and each one holds nuggets of truth that we need to unpack. Phase 1 – What is happening The ‘What is Happening’ phase is the most basic of the three phases. This is the rule discovery phase. It is the conjecturing about how they got here and a bit about the why they are here phase. But it’s formative in that the structure of the movie is built. The Philosophical rules are set here. And it’s in this phase that we are given the liferaft conundrum. If you have attended a college Philosophy introduction course, you know of what I speak. It’s a simple mental exercise that you’ll understand immediately if you’ve never heard of it. Basically it goes something like this. A cruise ship hits something and everyone is abandoning ship. In the chaos of the moment, 18 people dive into a life raft that can handle 8. But the severity of the situation doesn’t hit them until after the cruise ship has gone under and the life raft starts taking on water. So here we all are, reading the safety instructions on the life raft, and we realize how deep the crap is we are in. And now we have to decide, who stays in the life raft, and who goes. How do you even begin to build the psychological scaffolding necessary to make a decision as enormous as that? Are you the guy that decides worth is based on salary? Are you that racist that decides to toss the minorities out because they are lesser than? What about age? Do we kick the older people out of the raft because they’ve already lived long lives? In Philosophy 101 this thought exercise has been a staple for years and years. So concept behind this movie isn’t anything new. But seeing it played out in this new and updated way gives it a fascinating spin. Phase 2 – Stereotypical Posturing As the survivors start moving from figuring out the rules and the what of their situation, they quickly head into the psychological scaffolding and justification of their rationalizing. As someone is dying every 2 or 3 minutes the conversation works in fits and starts. This isn’t a long drawn out 2 hour Philosophy class where you get to ponder your options. You either make a collective decision or someone is randomly chosen. And no one likes that option (beside the person chosen that is). So votes happen fast and furious and lots of them are about who spoke last. Or who was the racist? Or who was obviously trying to game this situation? But this movie explores the realities of how this could possibly go down. I mean, without much in the way of veneer. We see conversations about the latino gang member, and how he beat his girlfriend. He didn’t last long. And wasn’t that one woman a porn star? Hrmmm. Those are fake breasts, right? And what about that lesbian who traveled the world working for NGO’s before marrying her partner and adopting a daughter. Does she deserve to live? “I mean, cause that’s a sin right” says the conservative, suspenders wearing white male. I mean heck, the first five people targeted were the oldest people – and there wasn’t much thought given to that decision at all. They’ve lived the longest, buh-bye. It is probably the most openly racist, agist, sexist, and homophobic movie I’ve ever seen. And it works, because, what else are you going to do? One of the funniest moments of the movie is the woman who decides they all need to figure out what they have in common… so she would talk about herself and maybe it would ring a bell. Yeah, she was dead within a minute and a half. hahaha. The next guy who’s asked to talk about himself says, “Oh HELLLL no. I like living.” hahah. Phase 3 – Winning the game And in the final section of the movie, it moves from racist and stereotypical histrionics to move of a strategic game playing. Two sections of people realize that this entire experiment hinges around the pregnant woman, and the young girl standing next to her. The first group wants to save this duo, and the other group wants to kill them so that someone else would stand a chance to survive. So power moves are made in a very Survivor-esque struggle. I’ll give you one, but then you have to give me two, sort of a way. So instead of profiling around who DESERVES to survive, the movie moves into a sort of game posture where two different power groups are struggling for control. Circle Movie Philosophical Underpinnings Ok, so most of you will skip this section and jump straight down to the Circle Ending, but you may be doing yourself a bit of a disservice if you haven’t spent at list a little bit of time under the eves of a College’s Philosophy department. And while many of these viewpoints are the most simplistic of Philosophical ponderings possible… they are still pretty critical to understanding this movie completely and helping you to come to final conclusion of what may have actually happened. Theory #1 – The Circle and Nihilism The King of Nihilism is none other than Nietzsche and then later on was Heidegger. Nietzsche is my own favorite post modern and Nihilist in that, if there is no God (which I disagree with, but if) then we should all be Nihilists. There really is no other option, and everything else is a trumped up fiction. But the basic viewpoint of Nihilism basically says that there is nothing beyond what we see. Not only that but that there is no reason for our being here. We were an accident of primordial soup, and you know what? That whole self awareness? That was a fluke too. Heidegger carried these thought constructs forward and was a fan favorite of Hitler. Which makes sense to me. But I don’t want to get too far down that particular beaten path. As the movie was ending and we have our winner Eric standing exultantly, having tricked both the girl and the pregnant woman… when he hears the beeping again he yells out at the people in control of this experiment something to the effect of, “You know what? We are all fucking horrible people.” At this moment, the movie is the epitome of Nihilism. Everyone just dies. There is no point. This life experiment? It has zero purpose. We live. We die. And that’s that. Which reminds me of a quote from Nabokov (I mean, heck, we are already at 2,500 words, what’s a few more?) “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Yeah, that’s Nihilism. We are all going to die, so who cares if it’s a while dying on an alien ship while being tortured along the way? Nothing matters. Theory #2 – The Circle and Determinism Determinism is about as simple a philosophical theory as possible to understand. Basically it posits that everything happens for a reason, that nothing is an accident. We hear a Pastor speak about God’s will and how His purposes are always good in spite of our inability to understand them. And it was God that was ultimately in control. Determinism flies in the face of free will by stating that we are not in control, even what appears as freewill, is actually already predetermined and already known. There are a million different flavors of determinism and there are fullon doctoral dissertations on these variations. For example, William James’ essay on The Dilemma of Determinism appeared in 1884. And in it he coined the terms “soft determinism” (or compatibilism – man this is some rabbit hole I’m down right now), and “hard determinism” (strict determinsm… or better put, pre-determinism from the beginning of time). If you look at the movie of Circle from the light of Hard Determinism it would state that God foreknew that aliens would come, and experiment on these humans, and that it is what it is because it was foreknown. Eric won because knew he would. Eric was a dork, because God knew he would be. Even my discussion of Eric’s dorkism is determined. We are locked in this path, and there is nothing we can do about it. Theory #3 – The Circle and Plain Consequentialism or Benevolence Plain Consequentialism basically just states that of all the things a person might do at any given moment, the morally right action is the one with the best overall consequences. (If there is no one best action because several actions are tied for best consequences, then of course any of those several actions would be right.) So, by sacrificing one’s self to save a young girl, it may very well be the best action over all. Right? Another spin on this philosophy is that of Benevolence. Which was crafted by David Hume, and it states that all actions of a moral agent are motivated by character traits… whether they are virtuous or hostile. Hume would say that if you chose to donate money to a charity then your action was motivated by your virtuous character trait. And by making this action happen you have a very real impact on the receive of your action (giving food to a starving person will actually keep that person alive… and they will be impacted by that act.) You can obviously see why either of these philosophical theories would be instrumental potentially in defining this theory. If people are capable of moral kindness, and these kindnesses impact others, should we not consider a benevolent response in deciding how to react in this scenario? Theory #4 – Game Theory’s Prisoner’s Dilemma and Egoism You know the prisoner’s dilemma. Two prisoners who committed a crime together are being held in separate cells. If they both stay silent they will both get one month in jail. If one of them snitches, the snitcher will go free, and the other will go to jail for a year. If no one snitches they both go to jail for 3 months. If they both snitch they both go to jail for 3 months. The question here is simple… as a prisoner in this situation, how do you game this scenario to gain the best possible outcome? (Want the best possible execution of the Prisoner’s Dilemma? Check out this play here which was discussed in detail on the podcast Radio Lab.) Obviously, at the end of the movie, Eric makes a purely selfish manipulation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. He gets the young girl to step off her space simultaneously with him (or so he says) and instead of stepping off he votes for the death of the pregnant woman. Eric basically plays the prisoner’s dilemma twice in the span of 2 seconds. The first time with girl, getting her to commit suicide, and the second time with the pregnant woman by voting her out… and thereby killing her. If for you this movie is most adequately understood from a purely game theory standpoint then this is the theory that best depicts the primer movers for all these actors. And if you couple Game Theory with the most selfish act possible you have just crossed the streams with Egoism. Egoism is simple enough to understand. It basically states that there is no such thing as an altruistic thought or action. Even if I give food to a starving person, I am only doing it because I want to impress you. Or I like feeling good about myself. Right? Egoists are a truly savage beast of a person to deal with. Circle Ending and My Favorite Theory This movie has a very specific world view that it is espousing. It’s obviously a very nihilistic and selfish perspective of the planet. That everyone should do what is best for themselves and that they should be justified in so doing whatever it is that they do if it furthers their purposes. Right? This thought experiment shouts loudly and clearly that since there is nothing but the abyss awaiting us, do whatever the hell you want to do to get yours. I remember meeting a true anarchist/nihlist in my first Philosophy class. We actually became fast friends because he believed that since there was no God, he should live every moment for his own benefit. It was a logically clean system. I believe the exact opposite, that since there was a God, I should live benevolently. And our relationship was a bi-polar match made in heaven. We actually got along swimmingly because we believed in a pure system. Most people in the class stood firmly in the middle. They believed there was no God, and yet, they shouldn’t steal… they should act benevolently… for some purpose I didn’t understand. My Anarchist friend, if here today would applaud Eric and his actions that manipulated his way to the end. And I applaud him too. Minus the fact that I believe in God and that there is a reason and prime mover that supersedes simply winning this alien game of twister. My two favorite guys in this movie was the young emo guy that chose to commit suicide early on. He was the first to do so. He did what I would do if I was really put in that situation. And the second was the man who never cast a vote and never said a word. Both of these characters were the most morally correct perspectives of how to play this game in real life in a world where God exists and our actions carry import. So personally, I would side with Hume and Descartes that posit that our actions matter. That we all have a God shaped hole in our center that calls us to live benevolently and with a perspective beyond the moment. But I would expect most people to go with would be that of the Game Theory explanation. That the person who is able to manipulate their way to the final tribal council is the winner come hell or high water. No? I’d love to hear your perspective on how the movie views the world, or how you view this exercise from your world view. The Circle Epilogue and the Various UFOs At the ending Eric is dumped into the Aqueduct, and he sees a number of others there too. Now, if you never lived near an aqueduct, you probably don’t know that you aren’t supposed to be in there. Sure, lots of movies and shows have car chases in aqueducts. But really? You can’t go into the aqueducts without getting in trouble. To have a stash of people just wandering around there makes zero sense. I would argue that all those people we see at the end are winners of their games. I even initially noticed a pregnant woman, and wondered if it was our pregnant woman. Which would imply that everyone in that ‘game’ survived, and that it was just one big psychological experiment. But when I looked closer I noticed that the pregnant woman was not the same one. Which is a big deal from an explanation standpoint. Because it means that everyone really did in fact die. That it wasn’t a ruse. And that Eric had been complicit (no, not complicit but directly responsible!) in the deaths of 49 other people. Right? If I am correct… what happened was this. Thousands, even millions, of people were abducted and made to play this game. When the game finished and there was one person left standing they were teleported back to earth to consider what it was that they had done. Right? And if the scale of the game was world wide, what would be left on planet earth would be 1/50th of the people… or 140 million people. And those 140 million people would be some of the worst, most egotistical people ever. 140 million people with the blood of almost 7 billion people on their hands. And that is the larger picture that the movie creators want to posit. That we are all egoists. That we only should do what is right for our own best interest. That we should lie. Swindle. Steal. Whatever it takes to come out on top. No? Personally I loved this movie. The acting was sparse. The writing was merely OK. But the theories at work underneath the surface here are fantastic. Just gorgeous. How would you play the game if you were forced to play? How do you think the creators of the movie believed the world should act if put in this position? Do you have one theory that really resounds for you? Or heck, bring your own philosophical theory to the table! There are a million to choose from. I literally cut out 5 more that I’d written out fully. But at 4,000 words now, I’m thinking this write up needs to stop and turn it over to you guys! I want to hear from you now. 42 Responses Elizabeth aka Happy Pancake August 19, 2016 I tend to come at such movies from a “what would I do?” point of view. How would I fare? I have a self-preservation instinct, no poker face, sometimes make choices I wish I could change, can be judgmental, and am competitive. So if it was all a game, well, I might make it to mid-pack, but don’t t I would think I would last to the end. I also have a caring soul, a strong conscious, and a belief that kids should be protected at all costs. So, from a non-game perspective, I wouldn’t want to be the last man standing. All lives have expiration dates. If aliens came and made us play this game and shortened the lives of 49 of ever 50 people, the 49s would still be going back to God when they were done, the same as of they had never played. (heaven, afterlife, maybe even rebirth). By this thinking, winning the game doesn’t make you a winner. You still have to live with the things you do and answer for them when you’re done – the same as if you had never played, plus you may become the feisty pet of our new alien overlords that the ‘losers’ will never have to face. I also thought that different outcomes could have occurred in other spaceships. Perhaps in another ship, a little girl lived, or a silent man survived, so Eric winning on our ship is not a condemnation of the entire human race – just a sampling of possible outcomes. I don’t think it means that we are all egoists – but that the film is a warning or pleading not to be one. One of my favorite quotes: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. The film says – there are Erics among us, so be vigilant. Help one another and do what you can to care for your own soul. Reply Taylor Holmes August 20, 2016 Yeah, Elizabeth, I agree. If this situation were real. And you and I and 48 other random people were in this actual event really… the first thing you’d have to consider is voting for someone. Those that actively vote time and again do “better” from a survival standpoint. But by voting for someone you are complicit in their demise. Even one vote (even if unsuccessful) should be extraordinarily burdensome morally. I would think so anyway. So thinking about this situation realistically is kind of lame because I wouldn’t vote, let alone lobby for someone or against another. I’d probably be the silent guy in order to give the aliens as little about us as possible. But to think about it as a more intense version of the game Survivor? That would be tons of fun to try. To figure out when to speak and when to stay very very quiet. From the movie standpoint, the only thing necessary to see it as a game of survivor is to show several of the members of the 50 alive near the aqueduct. But alas. They did not. Most importantly, I liked your correction of my assumption evil would triumph in each game. It could be that the child wins occasionally, or a good person with a future might win? And yet, we are all broken, and decidedly selfish at some level. We are all in need of a saviour. Which from my vantage means that I’m not much of an optimist when it comes to human’s left to their own devices. But I prefer your optimism. Very much! hahah. Thanks for commenting. Reply rhonda January 31, 2017 reviewers are all discussing what went on inside the circle. however i think we as viewer should step outside the circle and ask more about “the power” that has created this circle game for their own inexplicable ends. so caught up in their own survival the participants, or victims have given up as useless the questions of who has put them thereand why. These are philosophical questions the people trapped in the circle dont have time for, their brains are fully occupied with the game itself. However the viewer does have the option of considering that if the circle as an analogy for life and how we live it, maybe we are meant to literally step outside the circle and consider more seriously who or what has constructed a human society that has behaved in this way. Firstly this is easier for me as i am not American and therefore am already outside the moral or ammoral social norms of the film. The people in the circle do not typify all humanity only that within the film makers scope. I could go on here to explain the relationship between the people in the circle,there actions and the unseen power that manipulates them. I have many ideas on this. However for those further interested in philosophical explaination with higher academic credentials than mine i suggest you watch Noam Chomskys documentary Requiem for the American Dream. Being his last interviews, it is not totally uptodate but still very valid. Follow it closely and you will understand more about the circle game than maybe the film makers even realised. Taylor Holmes February 1, 2017 Rhonda, yeah – totally. Brilliant inside out thinking. Yeah, what would life look like in that reality? Where you are watching humans get nabbed left and right. You watch as only a percentage ever come back. Dang. It’d be a horrible world. Like the movie Arrival but backwards! hahah. And yeah, as a non-American you see and understand things that most Americans do not understand. (I’m sure I just offended some American somewhere.) This definitely could be a real view of the movie a real way to deconstruct it and understand the real message. I don’t think I ever reached out to the creators of the Circle, did I? Maybe I mentioned it in my post? Usually I try to. But that would be a fascinating discussion with them regardless. Miyami October 11, 2016 It seems implied that the people Eric walks up to in the closing scene are the survivors of other circles. If you look closely you’ll see that out of about 15 people there are 2 pregnant women and at least 4 children…which would support your theory that other circles chose with more morality and benevolence. On the other hand, the whole deal with the pregnant women is much more nihilistic. During the entire “game” the pregnant woman is given favor because people assume that by saving her they would save 2 lives. Sadly though, we find that the fetus is counted among the participants, as Eric must vote to kill the fetus in the end. Which means it’s likely that those surviving pregnant women were forced to vote to kill their own baby, as they couldn’t vote for themselves, and a suicide would have killed the baby anyway. In this regard, nihilism takes center stage, as look how many people were sacrificed or sacrificed themselves for the baby (most notably that terrified, yet very brave little girl who admitted to Eric that she was doing it for the baby) when ironically the baby was the ONLY one who never had a chance to begin with. Reply Quincy Scott October 29, 2016 That’s only half true. They established early on that you can’t vote for your own circle. There’s simply no way to do so. They show someone trying to point an arrow at themselves and that person is unable to do it. The pregnant woman would have no practical way to target her fetus. The fetus is in the same circle as she’s standing in. The only conceivable way shown in the movie would be for her to fall over onto another circle. However, that would constitute her leaving her own circle, which would immediately kill her. Most likely those pregnant women and their children lived, due to being in the same circle. Taylor Holmes August 22, 2016 Have you guys (Elizabeth, et al.) seen the movie Exam? Just flipped it on to see if it was something to put on my list… oh yeah. Looks fantastic. Very much similar to this movie. Gotta find time to watch it and review it. Reply Tanya August 27, 2016 I’m not sure about Exam. I thought it was clever, but seriously doubt anyone would act like that in an interview, even if their worse job was the best job in the world. It’s another of those movies that raises a lot of questions and theories in human nature and again plays with stereotypes. Reply Taylor Holmes August 29, 2016 Hey Tanya, I started that movie you recommended… the Korean (Japanese?) one? Oh yeah, The Beauty Inside. Got 15 minutes in and my iPad smacked me literally in the face after falling asleep. Not that it was boring, but I had spent the night watching ‘Approaching the Unknown’ (post is going out tonight) and finishing Demolition (later this week?). Definitely looks like a very interesting movie. We shall see if I can get it to the front of my queue for a night! hahah. jiva December 13, 2016 I have to disagree with you on EXAM. True, under normal circumstances no one would act like this in an interview. But these were not normal circumstances (easy to forget with the clean suits and pristine room): 1) The entire world was afflicted with an incurable and fatal disease 2) the job literally meant the difference between life and death for more than one person in the room 3) there were no rules except the 2 or 3 initially stated . combine the lack of clear instructions with that countdown, and the thought of life/opportunity slipping thru your fingers… I can see many people going that route . Tanya August 27, 2016 I loved this film, found it while randomly looking for something to watch and wow what a philosophy gem. Simple storyline but agree it gives you so much to think about. On first viewing it annoyed me that they figured out the rules so quickly, there wasn’t really anything to draw that conclusion, but for the sake of the story understood why it was introduced and let it go. The movie would have been pretty boring if it was about a panicked group that spend the whole movie just freaking out in the ‘what is happening?’ stage until one was left. The movie felt like it was saying it was a mass experiment. That all the people we see wondering around the aqueduct looking at the alien ships were all survivors. Like some massive social science experiment, we don’t know if it is the whole world, but guess each person experienced a circle with 50 others. But it’s open ended, we don’t know what happened in the other circles, and how they all dealt with the situation they found themselves in. We can see from the various types of people that each circle was played differently. But we also don’t know what kinds of circles each was, maybe some were all pregnant woman, or all children or all people that knew each other, there are more than 50 stereotypes in the world. When I saw the pregnant woman I wondered if the fetas survived or if she had to make a choice to vote for the baby to save herself. In theory the fetas wouldn’t survive if she died, but still would the pregnant woman in Eric’s circle have to choose to save herself and loose her baby, if he had been honest about playing to try and save her? We also don’t know if the other 49 people did die, we presume they did, but we don’t know. The circle isn’t littered with dead bodies, they get removed. No one checks to see if they are unconscious or if they died, because no one can leave their spot to check. Even at the end there is still no answer about what happened to the other 49 members of the circle. I think it is unfair to hold the survivors responsible for their murders. We don’t have any dead bodies and it’s not as if any of them were responsible for the situation, they just happened to be the survivors. We only see how Eric’s circle handled the situation, how quickly they figured out the rules and how they played it. There is no follow up, no conversations with the other survivors to find out how they experienced the circles. No explanation of the alien ships and what that was about, or what happens next. The guy that didn’t vote could have not voted for a number of reasons, maybe he was in a state of shock and went rabbit in a headlight mode, maybe he didn’t understand english and never got that there were rules to the game, he could have never gotten past the ‘what is happening?’ stage. Besides how do we know he never voted, it works with a thought, we have no idea who is voting for who, all we see is who got the most votes. For the sake of this story Eric’s circle is interesting, because it does play the idea of how people deal with competition and how they all tried to play the game in how they judged each other and themselves. Is the survivor the one that values themselves the most, or who the group value the most? How would we play the game, who would we vote for, or debate who to try and save. Not everyone is like Eric, we can see that from the various people also in the aqueduct, and also when he is walking around, you see him thinking and there is guilt at he looks at the pregnant lady and then the alien ships and other survivors. This is the world he has fought so hard to now survive on, with all these other people and he doesn’t know how they played their circle. He goes full circle to the ‘what is happen? stage and not knowing the rules. Reply M.J. September 11, 2016 I liked this film too, but I kind of wished that the ending was bigger. I would’ve liked to see the people (at the end) staring into the sky be beamed up into the craft. A more defined ending would have let us know Eric didn’t win. He would have to play that game again and again. He’s probably not the kind of person who has to “live” with what he’s done. He doesn’t care so it’s not a good enough punishment for killing a pregnant woman and ten year old child. Also, I would’ve liked for the “red room and piles of bodies” to be explored just a little more; maybe at the end. I know the movie wasn’t about the actual alien invasion and the aircraft itself, but I need more for it to seem more real or complete. Overall I thought it was pretty good. Reply Taylor Holmes September 11, 2016 Ambiguous movies are where it is at. Seriously. Leave it loose and I can obsess about it. Tie it down, and I have a harder time pointing my brain at it. Just saying. But yeah, the red room. That is a fascinating point. Me too. Was that just the staging area where they prepped everyone? Hrmmm. Reply Hannah January 19, 2017 A clever way to debut into the movie scene, too. You bet I’m gonna go looking for their next movie. Even if it has nothing to do with this one, I am left wanting more and so I will go search for it. Brilliant marketing. Michael Darwin October 3, 2016 Great analysis. We spent two episodes of the Dark Discussions Podcast on the film, one just reviewing the film, another interviewing actor Dan Lench (the sweater guy). One of my favorite films of 2015. I like how it sort of parallels our interactions on the internet. We are (mostly) anonymous, and that allows us to be at our worst when dealing with others. We start with negative assumptions that confirm our own biases, and can’t be easily reasoned out of them. Reply Taylor Holmes October 4, 2016 Look at you Michael… getting new subscribers whilst commenting at the same time? Brilliant marketing amigo. Brilliantly played. But where were you the other day when I threw a call out for fantastic podcasts to listen to? My well had completely dried up and daggum I think I got like one comment in total? Brrr, chilly! Hahaha. This is a fantastic flick. Very cleverly played. If I was told to write a screenplay about this idea… I could not have pulled it off. I just would not have been able to come up with a winning concept like they did here. So kudos to these guys for making the improbable happen. love this little flick. Thanks for swinging by Mike, and I look forward to listening in! Reply A.A October 28, 2016 Very disturbing movie to me shows the dark side of human nature. Why do u guys think the atheist didn’t die at first ? When he talked about God. Was it voted? When he was talking about an idea or concept it was ok but once he started to talk about the woman people started to get scared. He was right though ppl did worship the machine trying to figure out the game. He was truly saved by god until he decided to switch sides. And the two who were in love, who voted for them? Nobody was discussing them when they were chosen. Maybe the aliens are interfering with the outcome it’s not totally based around votes. To me it seems there is no clear logic behind this game. It is all about who sided with who and manipulation. I don’t think the rules were established by the machine but by the ppl themselves, coz they were not consistent and changed through the whole movie. Maybe if nobody voted like the silent guy they would have all survived. It was all assumptions. Theydidn’t test this theory, did they? Anyone care to explain ?! Reply Ricky November 24, 2016 When your interacting with people there are unspoken rules and spoken rules that change by on people’s values wants desires and the power they have. People fell into and put of power and used it to thier advantage. Reply Some Dude October 30, 2016 Nietzsche was not a nihilist. His entire philosophy hinges on us having to create new meaning for ourselves, not that there is “no meaning”. This is not my own personal reading, it’s agreed upon by most Nietzsche scholars. I’m gonna have to vote you out of the circle for that. Another point of disagreement- at the end we see a lot of (possible) game survivors, many of which are pregnant women and children. Which means that a cunning psychopath did not win every single game. Total speculation- Why the aliens did this is not known, but it would (probably) enrich the human population with the aforementioned cunning psychopaths, and significantly purge it of highly socially inept people. It may be that they are trying to accelerate our social evolution in a way that we may find difficult to understand. Perhaps, in an intergalactic society, it is best when the races are known to behave in a completely self-interested way (as in the “rationally bound” agent of decision theory). This may be necessary because intergalactic civilizations have access to weapons that are capable of Mutually Assured Destruction on a galactic level. Reply Taylor Holmes October 30, 2016 Hey Some Dude, Sure. Yes. He attempted to find meaning post the killing of god. And what was his solution? Hugging a tree. Literally. Yes, I am well aware of Nietzsche’s ‘attempt’ to find meaning. But all scholars agree that it was an AWFUL solution. His tearing down of meaning was infinitely better done than his attempt at rebuilding meaning. Take Nietzsche’s discussion about the sisyphean struggle – Sisyphus found meaning at that moment, at the crest of the hill, just before the boulder rolled back down, in that millisecond it all made sense despite the curse and the scourge of constantly trudging his way back to the bottom and pushing the boulder back up again?! This is meaning? Really? Yeah, no… I get it, “scholars” all agree that Nietzsche attempted to define meaning in the face of nothingness, and I personally think he went mad in his failure to do so. Yes, I could have explained that some more… and yet, most really don’t care. You are the first to mention it anyway! hahaha. So kudos to you. Now, as to your speculation – could be. Or these aliens are fullon psychopaths and sadistic freaks and just derive infinite pleasure in the pain and suffering of others. Seriously though, as was mentioned by others, I don’t think it could be that they were “purifying” the human race in that as you notice from the other experiments, not all of them ended up like the one we witnessed. Children, mothers, elderly are seen standing there looking at the ships. So some of the groups were less self motivated than ours anyway. But I get your point – that it definitely would change the overall makeup of the human population if everyone went through that experiment. Reply greg November 11, 2016 From seeing the pregnant women at the end, I disagree that the movie was about nihilism. To me it just seemed like a dark social commentary. The author chose to write about a ship where the self serving, perhaps sociopath, won. This skewed the focus away from the more benevolent discussions that must have taken place in other ships where kids or pregnant women won, and instead to a (more common I would argue) swath where more selfish, petty, and dark discussions took place. This theory is supported by the fact that several current social issues took center stage throughout – racism, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, is there a God, and so on. I don’t believe it was meant to be hopeful or condemning, just a reflection. It definitely wants us to take a good long look at ourselves, though. Typically, that is done with the intention of bettering one’s self. And what are stories, if not meant to make us think and be better off for it. I personally would have tried to use my debate skills to save the girl, then sacrifice myself at the end. No one knows what the world would look like if the winner got released. A pregnant woman could have a hard time surviving an apocalyptic scenario. Also, giving birth could be dangerous, then survival for both would be very difficult if the mom made it that far. Kids, on the other hand, especially ones of the age the girl in the movie was, are natural survivors. They can eat little, and not even very healthy food, and survive. They also have a lot of energy and could run a lot and hide well if need be. Plus they have the longest to live, and if humanity survived the alien visitation, they could still procreate. So saving a kid would be the best choice for saving mankind. Also, and more importantly, I believe God would want the kid to survive, based on a variety of scriptures. Have you ever seen The Exterminating Angel? If not, based on what I’ve read on your site, I think you would love it. Reply Taylor Holmes November 12, 2016 Exterminating Angel?!? Hahah. Never heard of it in my life! Looking for it now. Reply greg November 14, 2016 The title is misleading… I don’t want to tell you anything about it, but I think you would love it. Marquita November 12, 2016 I’m so glad this page exists just because I just finished watching and immediately went online searching for answers. Well done. Reply greg November 12, 2016 Hi Marquita, I feel the same way. I finished a mindbender time travel movie with an open ending, went online to see if someone figured it out, and found this website. I feel like I’ve found my people! Taylor is awesome! Reply Taylor Holmes November 12, 2016 We love you too Greg… welcome to the party. Taylor Holmes November 12, 2016 And thanks to you too Marquita. Welcome! Reply Samantha December 30, 2016 lol same for me, I had so many unanswered questions. What If the circle, is a circle and the survivors have to go through the process again. What if it wasn’t Eric’s first time in that situation. This movie, really did bring back my four years at University, studying Philosophy… Reply Hannah January 19, 2017 Me, too! I was hoping for something dull to fill the air while I folded laundry and here I am, awake in the wee hours of the night reading about this movie and trying to decide if I have time to watch it again tomorrow while my kids are napping. My all time favorite movie is 12 Angry Men, and this is right up the same alley. Simple set, engaging dialogue. My husband hates when I get to pick the movie for date night. 🙂 Guess what we’re watching next? Side note Taylor, your blog ranks first on Google when I searched for “Circle movie explanation”. Kudos! Reply Taylor Holmes January 20, 2017 Hey there Hannah… Glad you get to pick the movie on date night occasionally! And glad to hear that it ranks well for once! hahah. No, of the 200+ thousand people that visited in December, 85% come from people searching for movie explanations in Google. And generally, explanation is the word that most aptly characterizes what I do, and what people are looking for. Just watched Arrival, “Aliens did what?! explain arrival to me someone please!” Just watched primer, “For the love of God and all that is holy, explain it to me.” Just watched Circle, “What the heck?! someone explain circle to me please.” I’d prefer to be characterized by “discussion” more so than “explanation” because I feel pretty ill-prepared to explain really anything. But whatever. Thanks for the comment and for swinging by. Taylor Kyrie November 19, 2016 The movie to me I took it as a mass invasion. He is an alien in disguise and the ultimate goal is to kill as many people as possible and his take at being logical and out smarting everyone he saved himself that long to the end and ultimately killed everyone and now he is going to another group to do the exact same. Because it quotes what he said in the beginning of it all. It makes perfect sense he acts as if he’s one of them hides out and then wins by taking all human life it’s a game of study to them. The next group he got with hasn’t been inducted yet but rather in awe. He’s going to do the same thing there and so on and so forth. My explanation is this he was an alien in disguise misled people outsmarted outplayed and will bounce around and do it over and over again. Reply Dee December 9, 2016 The problem with this film is that it’s a film. It only works because everyone (or at least, the vast majority) has to voice their opinion, or else there’s no constructive dialogue, social commentary or device to create factions. In a realistic setting, as soon as the first person got zapped for opening their mouth on an opinion or what they are or do, no one else would be willing to reveal any details about themselves or accuse another person. Doing so would be self-incriminating no matter what your viewpoint was. I was also surprised no one brought up the idea of using a mathematical lottery of some sort. Math is the only fair answer in this scenario. The greatest mistake in the film is made by the Asian youth when he reveals his discovery on the arrows. Had he never said a word, he might have been the last one standing. All he had to do was keep quiet, play dumb, and slowly vote everyone off. This also reveals a flaw in the beginning that because no one knew they could vote, there would have been an infinite tie. Reply Taylor Holmes December 10, 2016 Hey Dee… I don’t disagree – except the show survivor says otherwise. Sure, it’s a million on the line and not a life, yet even so… no one hardly keeps their mouths shut there! I guess it’d be easy to argue a false equivalence, what with the way the editors select the contestants. But it’s interesting comparison all the same. Just thinking out loud, don’t mind me. Reply Barrabas January 8, 2017 I only see one problem with the pregnant women (winners?) at the end. If at the end of the game, Eric was put in a tie with the fetus, Eric votes the fetus, the fetus can’t vote, so Eric wins. If the pregnant woman was the final person standing, she would be in a tie with her fetus, she cannot vote her own circle, the fetus cannot vote, both would die and there would be no winner. Which begs the question: If everyone acted “morally” to attempt to save two lives by saving the pregnant woman of the group, would the game end with no winner? This would make all their acts of morality account for nothing in the end except for dying with a clear conscience. All in all I found it an interesting movie (then again I’m a huge fan of Cube). Reply Taylor Holmes January 8, 2017 Great point Barrabas… (awesome Biblical reference there), Totally get what you are saying. So, leaping from that point you are making. How the HECK did those pregnant women win?! Or were they just random passers by standing and watching some people get dropped out of the sky??! So confused now. Thanks for that! hahaha. Taylor Reply Adam January 8, 2017 I thought that the guy who won at the end was trying to off more people. It seemed like he played previously which is how he knew the rules and he instilled the idea early on of leaving the kid and the pregnant lady to be the last ones. He then convinced the kid to off herself and voted for the pregnant lady to get a double kill, which left the unborn child and himself left so he voted for the pre-kid and left. In the final scene he went to find another group of people to play; that last group clearly hadn’t played yet because they were staring up at the UFO’s as well and the last group had at least one child and one pregnant lady. He would get sucked up with them and do the same thing thereby racking up his death toll. That’s what I thought the last scene meant at least. Reply Ronnie January 22, 2017 Oh snap I had a totally different view, the ending made me think that the aliens had sent search parties to help to collect humans. To do this they would have to disguise as humans but would have the chance of dying. Being manipulative beings they are able to win games quite easy, the disguised alien in this case…Eric. How would have Eric figured a lot of what he did so quick, I think that is why they showed all of that information at the end voiced by Eric (hippie blond guy kinda gave me an alien vibe too). The last scene would also show him finding some humans they missed, he seems to know exactly where to head, not taking much time in thinking just getting up looking around for a bit and walking till he finds people. They can’t abduct everyone as some people would be hiding. The reason for these abductions could be depopulation or just extermination in general. This reminded me a lot of the game “town of salem” judged by your peers till one or a few win, which made me think to Eric being given his mission beforehand. I donno man I could just be an idiot as right now everyone is going super deep into this and I’m thinking up shit that would be in a cheesy comic or game. Reply ch3o January 24, 2017 I have an alternative hypothesis. It may be that the survivor had already survived other circles. Early in the movie one of those who died immediately tries to warn them of something. Some within the circle know each other. They could have survived to other circles and then be more skilled on the “mechanism”. yes this movie is very disturbing. Reply Yuri Zavorotny February 6, 2017 My view is that while there is no God, we should stay benevolent because otherwise we will quickly decent into the world of “1984” or something like that. Not a happy place. The world filled with mistrust and fear. The world without love. And yes, if I had to live the rest of my life in a world like that, really I won’t care much if I live or die. Reply Benjamin February 12, 2017 There is a take on this movie that could be classified as theology. the story of revelations… and the battle in heaven over a pregnant mother… between God and Satan’s minions. imagine dying… and it was judgment time. and you were f acc ed with this situation. all the while… demons whispered in your ear, attempting to make you slay the mother and the child. w/o of you make the right choice and be rewarded by “heaven” or be selfish… and judged quickly, like the men and women who turned to racism and hate when “satan” aka the blonde hair dude with beard… and the old mr. Rogers guy whispered on their ears. crazy… but who knows. and when Eric “won” by making the wrong choice in the end… he was put back on earth with all the other “winners” Now I don’t necessarily believe all of this… but it’s just ONE of the theories I have of the meaning behind this movie. Reply Chris March 12, 2017 I am just thinking about the very end scene of this movie. If we go with the theory that these people are in fact survivors from their own “games”. Then we see 14 people not including the survivor from “our” game. There is a perfect shot with them all lined up looking up, about half are children or pregnant women. The other 7 individuals are 5 men and 2 women. There is another lady in the back who I cannot determine if she’s pregnant or not, she’s not shown clearly. None of these people are seemingly related to one another, despite how the scene looks. You have a pregnant lady holding hands with a young girl, who is not of her own nationality, and a man with glasses standing behind two young boys of different nationality. Its safe to assume that they are not the parents of these children. The pregnant woman could be comforting that girl, the man with glasses may simply just be standing behind the boys at that moment. Now if I go along with the main theory of this post, if the prime motive of this movie was to point out that we are all egoists and would do the selfish thing, then why so many kids and expecting mothers? It would seem more to indicate that perhaps we see both sides at the end. Perhaps the scale is a little toward the egoist side, especially with our own character joining the party at the end. But still about half of this sampling seems to indicate that both sides are equally still in play within our world. Who knows, but this movie was a great thinker, I enjoy a good movie that gets my brain going and this one really did it. Reply Taylor Holmes March 12, 2017 I like the way you are thinking there Chris… like a scientific sampling with regards to the resultant data set. But the single problem I see is something you mentioned. It’s quite a leap to assume that those are all ‘winners’. They could just be random people watching the ships. But, I actually buy what you are selling. Seems to make the most sense that they are coming off the ships. And if that is the case, then each ship was a test-bed, incubator, and a data set of lab results. And it would seem that our ship is the most awful ship of them all! hahaha. I guess? Maybe? Makes sense to me anyway. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.