Couple In A Hole


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Couple In A Hole
"Kate Dickie is amazing."

Couple In A Hole is about a couple in a hole. To say anything else about it is to invite the kind of spiralling distortion and uncertainties of a film that is as visually stunning as it is ludic with tone and genre.

Tom Geens writes, directs, and in Q&A at Glasgow's 2016 film festival explained that his motivating idea was a middle-class couple in a hole. The realities of casting and funding mean that the couple are Scottish and the hole is in the Pyrenees and then the unrealities of his vision take over.

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Kate Dickie is amazing. Sometimes in a performance there is a moment or a trait or a tic or a technique that one can single out that demonstrates where an actor goes within themselves or wherever to find a character and bring it forth upon the screen but it would be senseless to try to identify an element because, well, let's not say her name, because those too are part of the unfurling revelations, the collapse towards collapse, but complete and headlong and visceral her performance is something that gives us a sense of a character's world, hole and entire.

Paul Higgins, bearded and battered, ground down and down in the ground is her husband. We could (and audiences have) used terms like folie a deux but trying to ascertain genre in this film is an exercise in disappointment because the flexibility that the central performances (and there are four) and vision and escalation incolve are a continual exercise in the invitation and subversion of expectations as the erosion of certainty becomes the creation of art.

Genre is sometimes as much a question of media as it is one of characteristics of the text itself - that messy construct known as 'the literary novel' is as much an exercise of publisher and publicity and prizes as it is about people with improbable names either fucking or not fucking or things definitely not being science fiction if science fiction is defined in ways that are not correct. Though to elaborate, a man named Theodore Sturgeon once opined that science fiction was (and here I paraphrase) a human problem with a human solution caused and brought about by science. Here there is definitely a human problem, and a human solution, and the science is digging or sewing or friendship - and no less valid for it. This is what one might call a 'festival film', and an angry reaction to the spoon-feeding pablum that leaves audiences with neither questions nor answers, and is difficult - not living in a hole in the Pyrenees after an initially unspecified cataclysm difficult, but creating an absence of time and place and misdirection as to disaster and desire and deterioration difficult, a movie that does not require reading because it is subtitled but because there is a lot going on.

The soundtrack by BEAK>, an electronic project of Portishead alum Geoff Barrow, is a jarring that is fit and sits within a sonic palette that contributes to the various senses that the film creates including moments of jarring and distance and emotional intensity and variety, and so too the visuals of cinematographer Sam Care, and even performances that cannot fairly be called 'supporting' because this is a film that has enough character to defy ready characterisation, and all on purpose - Jerome Kircher and Corinne Masiero add as much to the film as a moment with a piece of clothing folded, as a rock's flight through the air, as a spider in the rain.

Your reviewer carries by habit an A6 notebook which is the mechanism of notation for review and most films (especially shorts) receive a page, or sometimes two, but Couple In A Hole and its subsequent Q&A took five to attempt to characterise how I felt about the film as I was feeling it because even my hardened and jaded expectations were left as lost and doomed as a wanderer on Knossos without a string to follow. You'll know that at Eye For Film we use 'If You Like This You Might Also Like' to point you towards things that are similar or complementary or usefully contrasting - salt and pepper or vinegar or lime - and sometimes in the act of watching a film to review I will jot them down but when the list becomes as large as Antichrist, Stations Of The Cross, The Duke Of Burgundy, The Romance Of Astrea And Celadon, For Those In Peril, On The Threshold and Predator it becomes hard to choose.

Choice is at the heart - because the ending, which Dickie fairly characterised as "divisive" leaves you with a choice - accepting what it is that it has done as either a continuation of its attempts to frustrate and delight in equal measure or to be frustrated or to be delighted. I am in the second camp, tending from the first, and as such this is, for me, a film from which I will abstract; a moment of gorgeous colour in pursuit upstream along the verdant path of a watercourse cutting through hill to uncertainty, and in contrast to the dark red of blood against a leaf swollen in response to the moisture in the air that sits as mist and cold across a landscape that turns the psychogeographic into a chaos of rock and rabbitskin; a succession of eyes and looks and glances; a palpable fear that is at times of fear itself; four stars, when for some it will undoubtedly be five.

If the opportunity is presented to you to see this then seize it, hold it close, gaze upon it with wonder and mystery.

Reviewed on: 28 Feb 2016
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A Scottish couple ends up living like savages in a hole in the middle of a vast forest.
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Director: Tom Geens

Writer: Tom Geens

Starring: Paul Higgins, Kate Dickie, Jérôme Kircher, Corinne Masiero

Year: 2015

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: UK, Belgium, France

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