Frammartino’s first feature in more than a decade, this dialogue-less wonder of a film is an immersive journey into one of the world’s deepest caves where Man must treat scientific discovery and human mortality with the same curious brushstroke.
Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino
2021 | Italy | Drama | 93 min | 1.85:1 | Italian
PG (passed clean)
Cast: Claudia Candusso, Paolo Cossi, Antonio Lanza
Plot: In August 1961, speleologists from Italy’s booming North arrive on a Calabrian plateau where time stands still. They discover one of the world’s deepest caves, the Bifurto Abyss, under the gaze of an old shepherd, the only witness of the pristine territory.
Awards: Won Special Jury Prize & Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: Coproduction Office (SG: Anticipate Pictures)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Cave Exploration; Time
Narrative Style: Non-narrative
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse
Viewed: Screener – Perspectives Film Festival
Michelangelo Frammartino, best known for his Le quattro volte (2010), is back with a new film after more than a decade. Il buco (or ‘The Hole’) is so deliberately-paced and contains almost no dialogue that for cinephiles its title becomes a playful nod to Tsai Ming-liang rather than Jacques Becker as far as films about ‘holes’ are concerned.
Here, several speleologists travel to a remote mountainous village in Southern Italy, where one of the world’s deepest caves resides. They enter into the dark abyss, one cautious step at a time and only lit by the lamps on their heads.
Nearby, an ailing old man who has lived on the land all his life calls out periodically to his cows, the latter probably amused by the sudden influx of human activity.
A reenactment of a 1961 expedition and an immersive journey into the heart of nature, Il buco must be seen on the big screen where the sensorial aspects will be amplified.
Stunning shots of the landscape are coupled with a rich variety of sounds, from the calming clink-clanks of cowbells at a faraway distance to the reverberating echoes of the inner cave.
Although it can be hazy trying to figure out what Frammartino is really trying to say with Il buco, which somewhat curtails the film’s ambition of achieving some sort of cinematic transcendence, there remains a sense that scientific discovery and human mortality could be treated with the same curious brushstroke.
Deep in the cave where sounds have not entered for millennia, humans will introduce their voices and footsteps; in contrast, the old man, once full of vitality, must contend with an eternal silence that awaits.