Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Hole (2001 film) (4 Stars)

This is a British horror film from 2001, not to be confused with other films made with the same name. It's known for being the first major role for Keira Knightley, when she was still 15. There's also a controversy surrounding the film, which I'll deal with later.

I've known about this film for some time. It's been on my maybe-watch list for years, but today I just happened to see a copy of the film lying in a bargain bin for less than a Euro, so I grabbed it while I could.

The film begins with news reports that four missing teenagers have been found. One is alive, the other three are dead. A police psychiatrist interviews the survivor, Liz, to find out what happened. She explains that she had a crush on Mike, a boy in school, but she couldn't get him to notice her. She asked her best friend Martin to arrange some way of putting them together. Martin had the keys to a nearby nuclear fallout shelter. He offered to let them into the shelter with two other teenagers, Jeff and Frankie, where they could party in isolation for a few days. He said that he would lock them in for three days, then return to let them out. If teenage hormones didn't run wild in such an enclosed area when would they?

The trouble was that Martin didn't come back. The four teenagers ran out of food and water. When the hatch to the shelter was finally opened by an anonymous stranger only Liz was still alive.

The psychiatrist doubts that this story is true. She thinks that Liz is traumatised and unable to remember the truth. The interviews continue and the true story slowly emerges.

This is a chilling story. The film structure is experimental, but not unique. The Chinese film "Hero" also presented several false stories before telling the viewer the truth. I don't think this is an effective form of story-telling. In the case of "Hero" I initially disliked the film when I saw it in the cinema, but I grew to like it more after repeated viewing. I have mixed feelings about "The Hole". What's the point of spending half the film showing a false story, something that never happened? Nevertheless, I intend to watch it again soon.

Now to the controversy. The teenagers in the film are presumably sixth formers, which is 16 to 18 in the English school system, but Keira Knightley was still 15. There's a brief scene in the film in which she appears topless. It's interesting to see that celebrity web sites that publish nude screenshots of actresses claim that she was either 16 or 18, depending on which side of the Atlantic they're based, but none admit that she was 15. It's easy to prove they're wrong. Keira was born on March 26th 1985, and the film was released on April 20th 2001. It's obvious that the film couldn't have been filmed less than a month before its release; in fact, judging by the outdoor scenes, the acting was probably filmed in autumn 2000.

There's another matter that I didn't know about before watching the film. In one scene Frankie, Keira Knightley's character, walks into the boys' changing room in school, to talk to her boyfriend Jeff. It's a beautiful scene. She marches through to the showers, surrounded by mostly naked boys, with a majestic grin on her face. The boys all scatter, terrified of her. I love films that show a woman in control. But one unnamed boy stands out. Literally. When Keira passes him he's half erect. She carries on walking and he disappears behind her, but when she moves to the side we can see him in the background staring at her, fully erect. This adds to the realism of the scene, but I'm surprised that it was left in the film. I feel tempted to provide screenshots, since I haven't been able to find any online, but this isn't a pornographic blog, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Or better still, watch the film and you'll see it for yourself.

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