Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Le Trou (1960)
(aka The Hole)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Le Trou (1960, Fr.) (aka The Hole, or The Night Watch)

In Jacques Becker's suspenseful, well-crafted, realistic (mostly shot in real-time) and dramatic crime thriller (his last film) about a prison escape, based upon a true-life event in 1947 when five prison inmates escaped from France's La Santé Prison:

  • the story (three days in duration) was told in flashback - the intricate procedural plan of four long-term, hardened cellmates in La Sante Prison to escape, one of whom was Roland Darban (stage-named Jean Keraudy, the narrator, and one of the original prison escapees)
  • the ingenious improvisation of tools (a periscope made of a toothbrush, twine and mirror, or a makeshift hammer) and the prisoners' single-mindedness to construct an escape tunnel (or hole - trou) through a thick concrete floor in their cell (covered over with cardboard boxes) and another wall
  • the film's dominant sounds - the very loud smashing of the iron bed-leg into stone and concrete as the men hammered through a corner of the cell floor and then through a cement wall en route to the sewer escape route; also the heavy breathing of the prisoners exerting themselves, and only very little sparse dialogue
  • the cautious and fearful tensions and suspicions developed when a fifth, fresh-faced cellmate Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel), charged with first degree attempted murder (manslaughter) of his wife, was transferred into their cell just before the planned jail-break, and the concurrent issues of trust and loyalty
  • the nighttime escape sequence - with a completely silent soundtrack (without music), except for diegetic sound effects
  • in the film's final few minutes, the plan went awry; the periscope revealed that the prisoners' cell was surrounded by prison guards - obviously, Claude had betrayed his compatriots to the warden, and he screamed for his life when the others realized what he had done; the guards burst into the cell to apprehend the four prisoners, as one of them attacked and tried to strangle squealer Gaspard; each of the four men was dragged from the cell after the escape plot was discovered, and strip-searched in the corridor outside the cell; Gaspard was directed to a new cell - # 7 down the corridor, and as he passed the others lined up, Roland turned and spoke only a few words to him: "Poor Gaspard"
The Ending


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