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Couple in a Hole

Entrancing performances plus a harrowing soundtrack by Portishead's Geoff Barrow make this British film about a couple living in isolation in the Pyrenees a hypnotic experience

Already in the first minute of the movie, Couple in a Hole transports audiences to a strange world strictly ruled by nature. John and Karen dwell in a hole in the woods somewhere in the Pyrenees, where they have established their own routines in order to avoid contact with other humans at all costs. Karen (Kate Dickie, from The Witch and Game of Thrones click here in order to read her dirty profile) is a woman turned into a wild animal. She crawls, almost never leaves the hole, does not speak and eats what John (Paul Higgins) brings to the cave — mostly living insects. The only sign that she once belonged to a civilisation is her wedding ring.

Gradually, John becomes concerned with Karen’s odd behaviour and encourages her to take little strolls outside. But first she has to stand up. The scenes capture an extraordinary physical performance, particularly of Dickie, who shows how strong and resilient a suffering woman can be. Deep inside, she knows she has to stand up and leave the hole, but she refuses it. Her attempt to walk is a unwilling act to please her husband. Her performance is pure physical theatre.

Eventually John decides to make some changes to their lives, and so he approaches a nearby village in search of food. It then becomes clear that living in a hole was the couple’s choice. It was the way they found to grieve their child’s death. Karen’s mobility problems are a consequence of this, the psychological sequel of a very tragic fatality. A spider stings Karen, triggering John to leave the hole in search of medicine. At this point John begins to contemplate social reintegration, which threatens the life of a couple in isolation. Karen feels betrayed.

Kate Dickie talked to DMovies about this experience: “We had to stop the shootings because Tom suffered an accident (he injured his ankle and the shoot was postponed four weeks)”. That is when life plays a trick to artists and helps them develop their characters more thoroughly. Interruption was part of the character’s story as well as of the movie itself.

French film theorist Andre Bazin explains that “there are directors who put faith in the image and others who put faith in reality”. Tom Geens can belong to both categories. Images in Couple in a Hole are strong, representing the basic instinct for survival and comprehension of sorrow. Karen’s suffering can only lead to desperate measures, as the final sequence reveals.

The mind frames reality. In other words, reality is what you believe can happen. John and Karen’s reality is that they cannot find solace, regardless of where they are. Nature merely reflects this mindset. If one is in harmony, then nature is harmonious. If one’s mind is troubled, nature will challenge them even further.

The absence of conversation in the movie gives room to a horrific soundtrack that establishes a dialogue with nature. Composed by Geoff Barrow (from the British band Portishead), the soundtrack of Couple in a Hole reflects the couple’s disturbing routine. The song ‘Silence’ by Portishead explains: “Tempted in our minds/ Tormented in silence”.

Another recent British production, The Survivalist (Stephen Fingleton, 2015; click here in order to accede to the review), also deals with the issue of living in isolation, supported by an equally creepy soundtrack. Couple in a Hole will be release in cinema theatres on April 8th. Below is the film trailer:


By Maysa Monção - 04-04-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently lives in London. She has a Masters Degree in Film Studies from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, ...

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