Film Review: Smaller and Smaller Circles

Bigger Circles

The first part of Smaller and Smaller Circles feels like it could have been sent as an email. It sure does not appear a high-octane whodunit/detective thriller at first – but it gets there as soon as it establishes all those information that could have been better off played out instead of peering through the conversations of two priests who speak in deeply rooted Ateneo English. It’s like watching Sine’skwela about the nitty-gritty of a crime investigation done by forensic experts who also happened to be Jesuits. Sure there are rewards as it moves closer to the final act, but it appears as though the film cannot maintain the sharpness of its tooth – whether to put the blame to religion, to the government, or the society as a whole. There isn’t much to it on its Act 1, except Gladys Reyes’ scene-stealing cameo.

But for all its narrative conceits, could it be because the filmic enterprise is entrenched to a much subtler vision? Could they be saying that, although seemingly reaching out to truth and justice, we may not be half as aware of the true nature of a crime? Just like Father Saenz and Father Lucero and all the other agencies, we are just looking from a safe distance.  Could that be the reason that as early as frame #2, we can already hear and perhaps, relate, to the innermost thoughts of the killer?  

We’ve heard many horror stories of abuse perpetrated inside the Church, but as profoundly engrossed by the power and influence of religion in our psyche and culture – could we have been neglecting our social psychology as a nation? We treat drug addiction as though it is exclusive to the bad guys, and not a symptom of a mental illness. This is why the campaign to eliminate drugs is a misplaced agenda to killing the receiver and not the big cartels who supply them. This is why, apart from reducing a crime to an act of the deranged – the mental journey of the individual is merely a speck of a circuitous investigation. And here, at hand, SASC is a moving picture of disguising the “show and tell” aphorism of the visual medium in auto-reverse. And that for all what’s said and shown is its understated triumph.

Could SASC be an effort to redirect our expectations about genre filmmaking? So many suspects, so many clues – but in all its effect and the thrill of the film seemed to have been devoid – the dichotomy of  every character presented could have been a stir-up for how an audience makes their own judgment. But as we see it as a whole, whether one is innocent or a figure is guilty of a grand cover-up – the society is an invisible hand to the force of evil that abuses and murders the innocents.

Smaller and Smaller Circles is unmistakably an intelligent film. It deconstructs the chosen genre, however risqué it would come out as a result – but for all its takings and smugness, there is a gem acutely embedded somewhere. But hey, the audience still gets to decide whether this one works for them. I am both an audience of entertainment and film criticism – brilliance is just one chunk of a much bigger circle. 
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