Directed by: Charles Davis
Written by: Charles Davis
Starring: Leslie Dame, Luke Mindell.
Film Review by: John McKeown
Circle Film Review
Shot almost entirely in New York’s Central Park, writer/director Charles Davis’ supernatural quest story centre’s on Katka, a former witch, who has to stop the seemingly all-powerful leader of her former witches’ circle from appropriating the soul of her 6-year-old granddaughter, Eleanor. The ‘Big Lady in the Sky’ is helping Eleanor, who has a serious heart condition, to die, so that she can access the girl’s supernatural power. Eleanor has ‘The Eye’ and, rather like Sauron and the Ring, she wants it to increase her own already considerable power.
The wide-angle shots and intimate chat between Katka and other members of the group, Stacy, a seventy-year-old witch who has made a deal with the Big Lady which has won her eternal youth and Peter Simon, a ‘child of the slaughtered Lamb’, create a charming, timeless atmosphere of other-worldly intrigue against the everyday life of Central Park. There are some nice uses of CGI, in particular a sky-borne stream of peaceful but purposefully drifting orbs, and a powerful night scene set in Bethesda Terrace where Katka confronts the Big Lady’s second-in-command, the torch-eyed, black-gowned ‘Broozy Susy’. Another of the film’s strengths is its equivocal view of these witchy activities, which involve neither white nor black magic, but a kind of pragmatic amalgam of the two. Performances too are of a high standard, led by Leslie Dame’s Katka, whose somewhat ravaged visage is full of expressive power. While there are distant echoes of Sidney Greenstreet in Luke Mindell’s performance as the initially fence-sitting Peter Simon, who provides a sounding-board for Katka at key points in her race to outwit the Big Lady and save her granddaughter's life.
But, at almost 2 hours the film is simply too long, and a less leisurely pace would certainly tighten things up.
As it is Katka spends too much time marching around Central Park indulging in shouting matches with her daughter Rebecca (Eleanor’s mother) on her mobile phone. The phone calls are necessary to move the story along but actual scenes from the hospital where Eleanor has been brought with her frantic mother, or even just scenes detailing Rebecca’s state at home while Katka goes AWOL from her grand-maternal duties in the Park, would’ve been far more effective. But we only experience the real world in the first twenty or so minutes of the film, and from then on we remain in what becomes the increasingly labyrinthine world of the witches and their current spat. Davis doesn’t actually show us what’s at stake if Katka fails to stop the Big Lady, everything being relayed through Katka’s mobile and the ponderous summations of Simon Peter.
At one point Rebecca is screaming down the phone at Katka, sitting among the lush leafage of the Park, that Eleanor has run out of the hospital coughing blood, and no one was able to stop her. This extremely implausible event is the point where all credibility breaks down, reinforcing the sense that whatever the witches are up to, it has no point of connection with the real world. Surely magic's whole raison d’etre is to directly, however darkly or brightly, influence the course of events? It is, and, in a movie about witches, we need to see that influence, rather than have it hermetically played out in the witches’ heads.