Jacques Becker, France, 1960, DCP, 131′, English subtitles
Five resilient and resourceful men are engineering a daring prison break, digging a hole to freedom inside their Parisian prison cell. In his final film, Jacques Becker wanted to recreate the real-life escape from La Santé prison, carried out by the “king of escapes” Roland Barbat in 1947. So faithfully in fact, that he cast Barbat to play himself under the pseudonym Jean Keraudy. Becker’s deeply humanistic and relentlessly physical tour de force is a suspenseful prison-break drama, masterfully shot and timed to breath-taking perfection.
“At the age of 52 his mastery and maturity led him to undertake an immense film in which all the essential aspects of the human condition would be addressed: dignity, courage, brotherhood, intelligence, nobility, respect and shame. There are only two possible settings for such a tale: war or prison. /…/ How many pages would be necessary to catalogue all the marvels of this masterpiece, of this film which I consider – and I choose my words carefully – as the greatest French film ever made?”
– Jean-Pierre Melville, Cahiers du cinéma
“From now on we should no longer speak of cautious talent, but of genius, the triumph of something unique and fully realized that other filmmakers have not achieved: a total simplicity joined to a precision of tone that never falters. In The Hole there is nothing but the exact look, the alive moment, authentic faces against neutral walls, an utterly natural manner of speaking.”
– François Truffaut