Film Review: Le Trou Dir. Jacques Becker
LE TROU (1960) DIR. JACQUES BECKER
Written by Belle McIntyre
The re-release of this 1960 film about an attempted prison break is so tightly focused and economical with details yet still manages to convey a whole world concentrated in one prison cell where five men plot and execute a plan to tunnel their way to freedom. Based on true events in 1947 at La Santé Prison, described in the a book titled The Break, by Jose Giovanni in 1957, the film uses mostly non-actors and one man who actually took part in the audacious attempt.
The tedium and repetition of prison life is in stark contrast to the ingenious tactics which the prisoners employ to avoid detection. They are masters of deception and absurdly patient as they begin the seemingly impossible task of chipping their way to freedom through dense concrete and one is on the edge of the seat the whole time as detection seems inevitable at any moment. The only subplots apart from the work on the tunnel involve one of the prisoners who decides not to go and the newest member of the group who has only joined them a few days after they have hatched their plan and are about to begin. They do not know or necessarily trust him but they figure that they will have to include him in the plan or it cannot go forward. A potentially fatal mistake.
The black and white cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet is amazing in the way that the small claustrophobic spaces and the intense physical effort are depicted. All of the men’s faces register complex inner emotions with very little language used. It is quite a tour de force.