director Jacques Becker
Jacques Becker’s extraordinary prison escape film. Le Trou (“The Hole”) compares interestingly if more contrastingly with Robert Bresson’s own prison-break film, A Man Escaped (1956). Earnest and realistic both are, but the dynamics are dramatically unalike.
In Le Trou, a young man comes to join three older men in a cell in a prison in Paris. He is there for an attempted murder of his wife which he claims was actually an accident. The other men have to decide whether or not to let him in on their plan for escape. One of the men, Roland (Jean Keraudy), is a sly one who knows his way around, digging a hole in the floor of their cell and crafting tools out of found objects to scout the catacombs to a passage to the sewer system and freedom.
The film is based on a true life escape attempt made in 1947 and Keraudy was actually one of the men who had participated in the real events. His face is so intense and all the actors so well if roughly-hewn, you would never realize that these men are mostly non-professional actors.
It’s an exploration of ingenuity, humanity and friendship. Even the portrayal of the prison itself and the guards is a portrait of a much more decent and humane system, meager as it is. It would perhaps sound banal to spell out the details of the plot, the sharing of food, of work, of the digging, the navigation of the tunnels, but that belies the film’s deep focus intensity.
It would make a great double feature with Becker’s other classic Touchez pas au grisbi (1954).