Volker Schlondorff's Cinema: Adaptation, Politics, and the "Movie-Appropriate"

By Hans-Bernhard Moeller; George Lellis | Go to book overview

17
Circle of Deceit

After the success of The Tin Drum and the change of pace of The Candidate, Schlöndorff planned to direct another film written by Günter Grass. The general subject of Kopfgeburten (Headbirth) was to have been the relationship between developed nations, such as West Germany, and the Third World. Grass and Schlöndorff planned to have the script grow out of a trip they took to Egypt, India, and Indonesia, but Schlöndorff was dissatisfied with what Grass finally wrote because of its lack of character or story. It was, in Schlöndorff's words, “a scenario in the form of an essay which would have made, under other circumstances, a very good Godard film” (“Le faussaire” 41).

Grass published this script in 1980 as the novel Headbirth or The Germans Are Dying Out (Kopfgeburten oder Die Deutschen sterben aus), which he dedicated to Nicolas Born, a German writer who had just died. On reading Born's Die Fälschung (translated in English as The Deception), a novel published in 1979 and set against the ongoing war in Lebanon, Schlöndorff found in Born's novel many of the themes and preoccupations present in the Headbirth project. Both works presented prosperous but anxious West Germans faced with economically poor but confident and decisive members of the Third World. The filmmaker determined to adapt Born's work instead of film Grass's screenplay (Schlöndorff, “Le faussaire” 41).

The film version of Die Fälschung, called Circle of Deceit in English-speaking countries, might at first glance be called one of Schlöndorff's most commercial projects up to that time. It makes superficial concessions to popular taste, providing for a scenario that contains elements of adventure and romance in exotic settings. On second glance, however, one sees that Circle of Deceit is a film containing specific discourses about both politics and philosophy. As a political film, it is a critique of journalistic sensationalism, an exposition of the complexities of the Lebanese political situation, and an examination of the gap between developed nations and the Third World. As a philosophical essay, it

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