WriterJose Giovanni, Jean Aurel Release date18 March 1960 (1960-03-18) CastMichel Constantin (Geo Cassine), Jean Keraudy (Roland Darbant), Philippe Leroy (Manu Borelli), Raymond Meunier (Vossellin / Monseigneur), Marc Michel (Claude Gaspard), Jean-Paul Coquelin (Le lieutenant Grinval) Similar moviesThe Shawshank Redemption, Blackhat, Barbed Wire Dolls, The Experiment, Sucker Punch, The Last Stand
TaglineThe greatest film about prison life
The Hole (French: Le Trou) is a 1960 French crime film directed by Jacques Becker. It is an adaptation of José Giovanni's 1957 book The Break. It was called The Night Watch when first released in the United States, but is released under its French title today. The film is based on a true event concerning five prison inmates in La Santé Prison in France in 1947. Director Becker, who died just weeks after shooting had wrapped, used mostly non-actors for the film's main roles, including one man (Jean Keraudy) who was actually involved in the 1947 escape attempt, and who introduces the film. It was entered into the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.
Four long-sentence prison cell mates are determined to escape. Before they can start digging a tunnel, the prison staff puts man (wrongfully convicted of attempted first-degree murder), Gaspard, into their cell. They have no choice but to fill him in. At first he's enthusiastic about taking part in the getaway, but as the tunnel nears completion the warden tells him that his victim recanted her testimony and that he will be released soon. Returning to the cell, Gaspard has to dispel the suspicions of his cellmates that that he turned them all in. He does, and they continue with the escape as planned. But in the last seconds when the five are just about to leave through their tunnel, they understand that they have been conned. The last scene is of the four cons being stripped to their underwear before going to solitary, and of Gaspard, walking to his cell down the hall, clothed in his escapee street clothes, where he will complete his sentence.
Michel Constantin as Geo Cassine
Jean Keraudy as Roland Darbant
Philippe Leroy as Manu Borelli (José Giovanni)
Raymond Meunier as Vossellin / Monseigneur
Marc Michel as Claude Gaspard
Jean-Paul Coquelin as Lieutenant Grinval
André Bervil as the director
Eddy Rasimi as Bouboule
According to the 1964 press materials that are included in The Criterion Collection DVD, Jacques Becker first read of the 1947 La Santé Prison escape attempt in a newspaper. Years later, he found out that José Giovanni had fictionalized the same escape attempt in his 1957 novel The Break. Becker contacted Giovanni's publisher, Gallimard, and Becker and Giovanni collaborated on the screenplay of Le Trou.
During production, Becker hired three of the attempted escapees as technical consultants. One of the consultants, Roland Barbat (using the stage name Jean Keraudy), appears in the film as the character Roland Darbant, who plans the escape tunnel and improvises all the tools they use.
Barbat also appears at the beginning of the film as himself, working on a Citroën 2CV. (Barbat became a mechanic after prison.) He states directly to the camera that we are about to see his true story.
The black and white cinematography is by Ghislain Cloquet (Mickey One, Au hasard Balthazar, Tess).
The scene where three different characters take turns breaking through the concrete floor of their cell is filmed in a single, nearly four minute long, shot.
There is no musical score except under the end credits.