The movie “Circle” was released in 2017 and has a plot that is still somewhat unclear to viewers. The film’s ending leaves many questions unanswered, which has led to debates and theories about the possible meanings of the film. In this blog post, I will explain the movie’s plot and offer my interpretation of its meaning. This provides some clarity for those curious about this film.
The 2017 film Circle is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. Judging by the film’s rating on IMDb and Kinopoisk, the transformation is not very successful – many details were lost when moving from the book to the script, and what was included in the film turned out to be pretty altered. But to look for meaning in the movie “Circle” is no less attractive than this.
I assume that most of my readers have not yet gotten to the novel, so I will sometimes refer to it and quote it in such a way that it is apparent to those who have not read the book. The paper “Circle” will help us understand the cinematic “Circle” meaning in those places where the director and screenwriter obviously missed something.
What does the “Circle” symbolize?
“Circle” is a universal image of a giant IT corporation. As blogger AtZ rightly pointed out, “Circle” is not in Silicon Valley – it is Silicon Valley. In Eggers’ book, Circle is “the only company on which something depends.”
I don’t think Circle is a satire of one of the actual IT companies, say Google, Apple, or Uber. True, the logo of a fictional corporation suspiciously resembles the Uber logo, recolored and upside down. This is all the more strange since the book contains an accurate description of the Circle logo: “a wicker lattice in a ball, with a small “s” in the center.” I know why the filmmakers redesigned the logo, but in the book, Circle is emphatically separated from actual IT companies: “a giant that swallowed up Facebook, Twitter, Google.”
The image of the “Circle” is too universal to be a crooked mirror for Google or Facebook, and it symbolizes something more global. According to Tom Hanks, The Circle is everything the Internet aspires to be. And the Internet is created by people: people write code and conduct networks, make content and consume it, and like and leave comments. “Circle” is a metaphor for the Internet, not a targeted strike against one or two IT companies.
What is the movie “Circle” about
The plot of the book and the film (almost until the very end, they do not matter to each other) is as follows: the main character (played by Emma Watson – Hermione in all eight Harry Potter) destroys the work in the company “Circle,” which developed “authentications” (“one account, one identity, one password, one payment system per person. Dozens of passwords and multiplication of identities disappeared. Your it is known that you exist – pays, enters, answers, looks, writes reviews, sees everyone else, and she shows them her only network persona – “AUTHENTIC,” relentless and undisguised. Until the end of your online life, you need only a button.”), and by the beginning of the action of the novel has swallowed up Facebook, Twitter, Google, and beyond.
Then this company invented miniature cameras that can be easily mounted anywhere and transmit online video images very clearly – and immediately explain “Imagine the prospects for protecting human rights.” Protesters on the streets of Egypt no longer have to carry around, find out that a crime or murder has been discovered, and then don’t know how to get the footage from the street and put it online. Now you can stick the camera on the wall – and that’s it. We did just that.”
True, the author did not realize that the police could also set up such cameras everywhere and in the air, intercepting a sample of rebels not intending to gather on the square in a well-managed herd. Social networks themselves are a godsend for the political police: many years ago, Heinrich Müller and John Edgar Hoover could not even dream that a blessed time would come when everyone would personally try to take possession of the dossier!
After that, the Circle came up with the idea to broadcast online all the actions of senators and more minor officials with the help of European cameras. They immediately become pariahs (“The opaque ones were pressured – politely at first, then unbearably. At any level, several functions for closed doors are needed for safety and efficiency, but the general impulse developed these arguments, like insects and the development of a fortress. Then it is distributed in elections. “So they say, it’s easy to vote if you have an authentic, and you can quickly find out the opinion of voters on any issue: the public function of elections. But the logic of this decision and the savings that accompany it outweighed.
And if the school gets two hundred billion dollars? If the billionth period? With the money saved, you can heal a lot of this country’s gains – and the funds will be protected not only for four years but every year, in one volume or another. Destroy costly elections, replace them with quick and useful ones? “. And if so, then it is necessary to oblige everyone to register in the Circle. Moreover, the employees of the Circle must constantly keep their cells closed – for example, only in the toilet, and then you can only turn off the sound, and the image is supposed to be left: anyway, they say, the camera shows the booths – what’s wrong with that?
In the end, one of the three founders of the “Circle” eventually translates what system of total control over the population his company is building and wants to stop it – but his plans are frustrated by the main character of the book, who is madly in love with the universal “transparency.”
Is “transparency” an absolute evil?
“Secrets are lies,” May says and solemnly declares herself to be completely “transparent.” For Tai and Mercer, however, giving up their right to privacy is impossible; the prospect scares them. But even in the world of the Circle, the question of the legitimacy of interference in someone else’s life has not been unambiguously resolved, and even more so in real life.
The film has at least two examples of how Circletechnologies are making the world a better place. If it weren’t for the SeeChange cameras, Mei would have died the night she stole the kayak. If not for SoulSearch, she was finding a woman who killed three children would never have been possible.
There are more such examples in the book. A character named Francis, who is not in the film, lost two little sisters as children – they were kidnapped, raped, and killed. At Circle, he is part of a team that develops technology for implanting GPS trackers into bone tissue, and he explains to May that this technology will save thousands of children’s lives.
But the same technologies can break human life. With the help of the ubiquitous SeeChange cameras, an audience of millions caught May’s parents in the bedroom – and the elderly couple will never recover from the shame. SoulSearch allowed Mei to find Mercer in minutes – only for the young man to die defending his personal space.
Above, we have already discovered that the “Circle” is a metaphor for the Internet. “The Internet will always reflect the person,” says Tom Hanks. And the meaning of the film “Circle” is not that high technology is an unambiguous evil. Even “transparency” (at first glance – a nightmarish violation of human rights!) can save a human life or help justice. But whether technologies will serve good or evil depends on the people in whose hands they are.
“Circle” is a dystopia?
“This is not a dystopia; this is a film about today’s society,” Emma Watson insists. Indeed, finding personal information about most of us is not so difficult: go to the page on VK or Instagram and collect. And the availability of data in real life does not always turn out to be good: thanks to it, harassment, threats, and blackmail are possible on the Internet.
During a roundtable to coincide with the release of The Circle, Patton Oswalt (played by Tom Stanton) said: “People don’t go for fame anymore – social media brings them fame.” “Social media is an amplifier, a megaphone that can be used for evil or good,” agreed Emma Watson. Whenever you read this article, you will easily remember another example of how someone became infamous on the Internet against their will. This is the reverse side of high technology – the one about which the creators of the “Circle” warn us.
Explained the ending of “Circle.”
The film’s protagonist, Mae Holland, is cross-influenced by two characters, Ty Lafitte and Eamon Bailey. Ty Lafitte, the creator of the TruYou technology (in Russian translation, this name has turned into a ridiculous “AuthenYou”), is unhappy with what Eamon Bailey and Tom Stanton have turned his invention into. He is against interference in private life, but he does not openly express his position. He keeps a low profile. After listening to his story, Mei stops idealizing the Circle. Nevertheless, she falls into Eamon Bailey’s confidence and becomes the company’s true face.
According to Patton Oswalt, Bailey and Stanton use Mei as a lemming leader who will jump down a cliff and drag the others with him. She becomes “transparent” herself, and in the finale, she makes an unexpected move – she makes Stanton and Bailey themselves “transparent.” After May put the SeeChange cameras on them live in front of millions of viewers, they can no longer remove the devices. Moreover, they took the first step towards this when they undertook to monitor the private life of the senator. Shortly before the outcome, we learn that Mei asked Ty for help and probably conceived this plan under his influence. But does that mean Tai won?
May has taken power from Bailey and Stanton; now, they can not escape the all-seeing eye of the crowd and use the information they have collected to their advantage. But to whom did this power pass? To everyone and no one. Tai certainly did not remain the winner – after all, he opposed the idea of universal control. Now power has gone to the crowd – the same people who brought to the death of Mercer.
In the final shots, we see Mei surrounded by drones. This means that now every person on Earth lives under the round-the-clock supervision of the rest of the population. Has the world gotten better or worse? If “secrets are lies,” then there are no lies or crimes now? Yes and no. Knowing he is being watched, a person will not be able to commit an evil deed – the punishment will follow instantly. But this does not mean a person will not want to do bad things. You can get rid of crime, but not from the evil within a person. And people in the world of the “Circle,” as well as in our reality, are still far from perfect.