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Film / The Ninth Circle

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The Ninth Circle (Deveti krug) is a 1960 film from what was once Yugoslavia, directed by France Štiglic.

It is set in Zagreb, Croatia, in World War II during the German occupation, specifically 1941-42. The Vojnovic family, who are Christians, are good friends with the Alakalaj family, who happen to be Jews. One night the Alakalajes are visiting the Vojnovics, when the alarm for German curfew sounds. Father Boris insists that they must go home, but daughter Ruth, in her late teens, begs to stay the night with the Vojnovics. Boris agrees to let his daughter stay overnight.

Come the next morning, Mr. Vojnovic escorts Ruth home—only to find Nazis throwing her father, her little brother, and all the other Jews of the neighbourhood into trucks. Mr. Vojnovic hurriedly takes Ruth back to his home. Desperate to save her, the Vojnovics marry her to their nineteen year old son, Ivo, thinking that if she's married to a Christian, she'll be safe.


The only problem is that Ivo isn't all that keen on getting married, even if it is only for show. He has a Christian girlfriend, the very pretty Magda, and he doesn't want to be tied down. Unsurprisingly, despite his reluctance, Ivo starts to develop feelings for Ruth, who is kind, sweet, and drop-dead gorgeous. Unfortunately for the young lovers, however, Nazi oppression threatens their happiness.

The concentration camp seen at the end of the film was Inspired by… the Real Life Jasenovac camp, which was not a Nazi camp, but an all-Croatian affair.



  • Citizenship Marriage: An extremely dark take on this trope, in which the Vojnovics marry Ruth to their son in the hopes that they can save Ruth from being deported.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Ustaše militia, Croat fascists who collaborate with the Germans. Zvonko, another student at Ivo's art college, joins them.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The idyllic opening scene, in which the two families are enjoying drinks and a board game, is interrupted by the sound of jackboots in the street and a Nazi marching song. This tells the audience that the film is set during the German occupation.
  • Gas Chamber: The Ustaše guards at Jasenovac lure Jewish children to their deaths by promising them rides—in gas vans.
  • Hand Gag: Mr. Vojnovic has to slap a hand over Ruth's mouth to stop her from screaming, as her father and brother are loaded into German trucks.
  • Hope Spot: Ivo kills Zvonko, grabs Ruth, and takes her to the fence. They aren't seen, and not only that, the power to the electric fence will be cut at midnight, to remove the corpse of another Jewish prisoner. Ivo climbs the fence, and makes it over to freedom—but Ruth, who is barefoot, can't make it up the barbed wire. Ivo struggles back over the fence, but they're caught by the spotlight and killed.
    • Idiot Ball: Why didn't he just give her his boots?
  • I Am Spartacus: In one scene the Ustaše, who have taken over the art college, assemble all the students in the quad. They order any students who have relationships with Jews to walk over to the left. Nearly the entire student body walks over to the left.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: "The ninth circle" of the concentration camp, where the prettiest Jewish girls are kept as sex slaves, until they're taken away and murdered.
  • Kubrick Stare: Ivo delivers a homicidal one to Zvonko, who mocks and humiliates him at Ivo's bachelor party.
  • Light Is Not Good: The last shot of the movie shows the German searchlight filling the screen with white light, symbolizing the searchlight catching Ivo and Ruth, and causing their deaths.
  • Marriage Before Romance: Ivo very grudgingly marries Ruth in order to save her from the Nazis, only to fall in love with her later.
  • Ominous Fog: The whole last section of the movie, in which Ivo traces Ruth to the concentration camp, is swathed in ominous fog.
  • Shout-Out: The title is a Shout-Out to the Circles of Hell from The Divine Comedy.
  • Sweater Girl: It's a dark drama about The Holocaust in Yugoslavia, but that still doesn't stop Ruth from wearing a lot of very tight sweaters.
  • Title Drop: The Jewish women at the slave labor camp tell Ivo that Ruth, being young and very attractive, is in "the ninth circle" of the camp. That is a bad place to be.