Smaller and Smaller Circles is a serial killer movie with some very interesting layers. The story takes place in the Philippines and it’s both violent and heartbreaking. Screened at CPH PIX 2018.
Smaller and Smaller Circles captivated me from the very beginning. And you may be surprised to know that much of the dialogue is in English. The movie itself is from the Philippines, but quite a few languages are spoken throughout the story.
The story is basically about finding (and stopping) an active serial killer. However, it is also very much a commentary on the Catholic Church. Specifically, the protection of known child abusers within the clergy.
This came as a surprise to me – but in the best of ways.
Portrait of a Serial Killer
Even though Smaller and Smaller Circles is more of a thriller/mystery than a horror movie, it has a lot of very graphic imagery. The MO [Modus Operandi] of the Serial Killer in this movie is very specific and consistent.
The victims of the serial killer are all pre-teen boys. And they are found in dump sites with their heart, genitalia, and face removed. And yes, we do get to see the victims. Several times and up-close.
The reason for this is very simply that the two Jesuit priests trying to solve the murders are also forensic scientists. Quite the combination.
Their interest in facts and science is also a big reason for them blaming the Catholic Church for helping the perpetrators of child abuse. They even try to fight them on this in public, which is not something you can get away with.
The result is that they encounter restrictions while working on the serial killer case. Don’t worry though, you will find out who the serial killer is. And you will probably also guess ahead of time – which I bet is intentional, as well.
A foreign movie in English
Usually, I hate watching movies where English is spoken as if it’s the native language of a country. The Snowman has become my favorite example as to why this just does not work.
However, it does make sense to let your actors speak English when English, in fact, one of the languages spoken in a country. India could be an example of this. So could Hong Kong. And yes, also the Philippines.
In the Philippines, the official languages are Filipino and English while several other languages are regionally recognized.
For this reason, Smaller and Smaller Circles is a perfect start if you want to ease into watching a foreign horror thriller. Overall, I would say most of the dialogue is in English.
Additionally, a lot of English words are used even when other languages are spoken. So are a lot of Spanish words. The reason for this is very simply that both Spain (which explain the Catholicism as well) and the United States have been in control of the country.
Young Filipino director
Raya Martin directed Smaller and Smaller Circles and did a very fine job with this movie. Of course, this is hardly Raya Martin’s first feature film, so he knows how to create a movie that works.
Personally, I don’t believe I’ve watched anything by Raya Martin in the past. But if Smaller and Smaller Circles is any indication of his past work, then I just might seek it out. He’s from 1984 so hopefully, he has a long career ahead of him.
The script for the movie was written by Ria Limjap and Raymond Lee. The latter used the pseudonym Moira Lang for both this and another movie. Also, the story is actually based on a novel by Filipino novelist F. H. Batacan.
The script was nominated for a FAMAS Award, which is basically the Filipino Oscars. The FAMAS are also known as Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards and was first awarded in 1952, so it’s a pretty big deal.
If you like serial killer movies (with a fresh and honest perspective), then be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
Smaller and Smaller Circles premiered in the Philippines December 2017 and has been playing at film festivals worldwide since. We watched it at CPH PIX 2018 in Denmark.
Director: Raya Martin
Cast: Carla Humphries, Nonie Buencamino, Sid Lucero, Bembol Roco
A serial killer in Payatas leaves the bodies of young boys in the dump as two Jesuit priests try to solve the murders.
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