Tom Geens’ ‘Couple in a Hole’ centers on a British couple living in the French Pyrenees who – for reasons unknown – have chosen to live like hermits in the vast woodlands surrounding a small town. John (Paul Higgins) spends his days foraging for whatever food the forest can provide – mainly berries, grubs and mushrooms. His wife, Karen (Kate Dickie, who must be sick of sitting out in the cold woods following this film and Tom Eggers’ excellent ‘The Witch’) seems to be suffering from severe trauma, unable or unwilling to leave the hole in the earth that the couple have made their home. When John begins to build a friendship with a local farmer (Jérôme Kircher), reality starts to creep in to John and Karen’s secluded life.

At the film’s outset, we have no idea what has driven John and Karen into their hole or why they seem to be hiding from the nearby townsfolk. Writer/director Geens opts very much for the ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra in telling his story, with the first half featuring minimal dialogue or music. Exposition is light, with the viewer having to piece together backstory through the odd bit of dialogue, or even just a lingering look. This is not high-octane cinema by any means; rather a slow burn of rising tension and drama.

Cinematographer Sam Care keeps his camera handheld and often close to the ground, giving the forest a sense of enormity while capturing the natural beauty of the surroundings (there might actually be one too many protracted shots of the Pyrenees hills, but it’s hard to blame the filmmakers when the scenery is so breathtaking).

The title, as you might have guessed, is both literal and figurative. John and Karen have hidden themselves in a hole in the woods, and opted to stay sunk in the pit of their grief. Neither situation is a long-term solution and, as the story progresses, the couple’s seclusion seems increasingly like a voluntary imprisonment. The woods seem to become denser around them as the real world increasingly bleeds back into their lives, forcing them to confront the past. In less able hands the grief analogy might be a bit on-the-nose, but Geens’ light touch and patient storytelling make it work and keep the out-there concept consistently believable.

The film’s soundtrack is provided by British band Beak, a three-piece consisting of members from Portishead, Fairhorns and Robert Plant’s band (and reduced to a two-piece as of February this year). Fittingly for the film’s back-to-basics premise, the music is for the most part stripped-back and used sparingly. As with the band’s albums, the soundtrack is often melodic, but always with an underlying dread, matching the film’s building drama as it builds to fuller, more intense compositions. Beak’s music is not always the easiest listen, but the band’s methodical, plodding grind has met a perfect match in this film.

‘Couple in a Hole’ may be a bit too odd and slow-paced for some people - and it loses its way a little in the final third as Geens’ struggles to wrap everything up – but it is an engaging and nuanced drama, dealing with difficult subject matter in an inventive, original way, and with standout, must-see performances by Higgins and Dickie.







Related Links:



Commenting On: Film - Couple in a Hole








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last