This is one of Sokurov's more moving films, a claustrophobic, tight, yet spiritual and sad film. It's also one of his most difficult, but if you let yourself go to its mood and character, you'll realise it's one of his best films. The film deals with a son who comes home to find his father dead, and the problems he has to deal with both emotionally and financially with the father's burial. Even by Alexander Sokurov's standards, this is a slow film, but it's also hypnotic. The dilapidated apartment feels like a claustrophobic prison. The film is shot in bleak color and black and white. It also has some surprising humour in dealing with the dead father's corpse and a very cranky undertaker. Sokurov is a master of the long take, and here he uses it superlatively. Sokurov is an amazingly prolific filmmaker, making many documentaries, miniseries, and feature films, sometimes two a year, and his work is always interesting even if it fails. This is an underrated, somewhat forgetten film by him, made around the time the USSR collapsed. Some have interpreted the dead father as the USSR, but this is the usual over intellectualisation blather.
After years of having this film only available in substandard VHS transfers, Kino Video does an excellent job with a great transfer. The only Sokurov film I didn't like was Moloch, his film about Hitler. The Second Circle is one of his most moving, powerful, and sad films.