Hey, do you mind if I ask you something? Would you be a better version of
yourself if you knew you were being watched 24 hours a day? What would the
implications be of a transparent society? There are people that we want to be
transparent - our celebrities, our criminals - for our own voyeuristic pleasure,
or our safety - and others of whom we feel entitled to demand their transparency
- our elected officials, our law enforcement. Where is the line? The concept of
totalitarianism is historically thought of as a construct that would be forced
upon us - but what if we are complicit, even unwittingly, in our own oppression?
STX Entertainment and EuropaCorp's gripping modern thriller The Circle is set in
the not--too--distant future where privacy becomes criminal and we are forced
to confront the question: What price are we willing to pay for knowledge?
LIFE AT THE CIRCLE
Production designer Gerald Sullivan, had his work cut out for him when trying to
bring Eggers' utopian work campus to life. "It's a pretty fantastical world
described in the book," says Sullivan. "The idea is to create a workplace
environment where you want to stay at work as long as possible. They achieve
this by making all the creature comforts accessible and free."
Karen Gillan, who plays Annie, Mae's best friend, adds "having worked on this
film, I decided I think it seems like a great place to work. There are so many
perks working there - musicians, standup comedians, improv comedy groups, and
lavish parties with banquets of food. They have on site dorms with room and maid
service. They have even have "doga" - which is dog yoga. Who wouldn't want
Sullivan and Ponsoldt chose empty tenant space in Playa Del Rey, California to
create The Circle's campus. "We picked and pulled pieces of buildings throughout
Los Angeles that we thought could make up the environment of the Circle. We did
a vast amount of architectural research before the film started and worked hard
to integrate the green aspect of buildings and surroundings that seem to be very
common these days in the tech industry."
But all these accoutrements and gorgeous office space don't come without some
manacles. Gillan continues, "Although there are many perks, The Circle gets a
little darker as the story moves on. You are 'strongly encouraged' to be very
active on social media, documenting every move you make, commenting on other's
activities, and participating in surveys. All of these behaviors give you a
social ranking, your Participation Rank, which is public to the entire company.
All the employees are trying to drive up their Participation Rank and it takes
over the entire life of the characters."
Sullivan adds, "The founders want The Circle to be both their social environment
as well as their work environment. That can quickly turn creepy. So that's what
we were after, a little bit of that."
A metaphor for this creep and intrusion is the mounting number of screens that
Mae continues to get added to her desk. First it's just for her work, and then
another for her social streams, and another to manage her chats, and another to
manage her social ranking. Quickly her entire desk is covered in monitors. Her
personal space slowly being eclipsed.
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