Review: Silent Witness: Squaring the Circle: Part 1

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This week’s journey into darkness began with a shooting outside a posh party. A child’s Nanny is murdered. Was she the target, or the child, or it’s Russian father? Could there be an international assassination plot in progress? There are many things going on here, many of them violent (well, this is Silent Witness, so this is to be expected).

Squaring the Circle sounds like it should be a David Hare play but this dark and murky story is another beast altogether. It starts off like a run-of-the-mill Silent Witness episode, with a grouchy, badly acted cop and a grisly autopsy, but developed into something darker and more unsettling. Some scenes even bordered on horror, with one of the most memorable being a naked man sitting in a chair, ripping something out of his shoulder whilst screaming. This makes it sound hysterical, but the general effect of the whole thing was actually a lot more sombre and slow than usual, some of it evoking Danish crime drama The Killing, though minus Sophie Grabol and her trademark jumper (she’s currently busy over in Sky’s big budget series Fortitude).

Silent Witness Squaring the Circle review

The performances were stagey, awkward and stilted, but this seems deliberate rather than a sign of weakness, causing a feeling of strange surrealism that makes for a compelling and uncomfortable experience. I also rather enjoyed the Bond-villain style introduction of acclaimed Romanian actor Anamaria Marinca (pictured above, famous for her award winning turn in the hard-hitting film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), sitting in a chair looking like she should be stroking a white cat. Her steel-like intensity serves this part well, and it is rather great to see her playing someone so deliciously evil.

Serbian actor Dragan Micanovic is also very impressive in the leading role as the flailing Russian oligarch who feels threat closing in on him from all sides. This may be just me, but I couldn’t help feeling he reminded me a lot of Anton Yelchin (or at least a much older version). He has an attractive-vulnerability thing going on. Perhaps that explains why he has more than one woman connected to him and is currently involved in both a divorce and a love affair with a beautiful luxury property developer.

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As the episode spiraled towards its uneasy conclusion (or, rather, cliffhanger), it succeeded in marking our capital city feel like a foreign, almost futuristic place, with gleaming night imagery and stylishly lit penthouses, not to mention the weird swimming pool seen in its final moments (which looks like a beautifully lit sewer). Even one of the characters says “I don’t recognise this city any more.” The theme of a changed city that is evolving before our eyes links with the central plot, which concerns the politicians selling parts of it to foreign investors. All is not as it seems here and this opening chapter plays out more like an hyper-modern restaging of a Kafka play crossed with the art design of Blade Runner. Strange, disquieting and curiously menacing.

Silent Witness: Squaring the Circle Part 1 is available for 30 days from broadcast on BBC iPlayer. 

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Beautifully menacing

Squaring the Circle is proving to be a menacing, brooding and slice of neo-noir; gorgeously lit, weirdly acted and more than a little unsettling. A curious addition to the Silent Witness collection.

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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