Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hole (Ming-liang Tsai, 1998)

The Hole is a cinematic marriage between two genres, science fiction and musical drama (romance). Ming-liang is one of the prominent directors from Taiwan and is known for long takes, few close-up shots, and minimal use of dialogues. The plot unfolds in Taipei. The city is flooded out and a strange disease has surfaced in the city that turns infected people into human cockroaches that fear any form of light. A woman and a man live in an adjoining top and bottom apartments in a dilapidated apartment complex. The two lonely souls are caught in the middle of an impending ecological apocalypse. Loneliness has engulfed their lives, each is unaware of the other's existence. However, an inept plumber inadvertently connects the two isolated humans by creating a hole in the floor of the man's apartment, which automatically creates a hole in the woman's ceiling. Thus they become connected to each other by a gaping hole, which acts as a symbolic and metaphysical connection between the two previously disconnected humans. From thereafter, Tsai starts weaving their growing affection for each other among the ruins by lip-synched renditions of popular radio numbers that break the monotony of the frames. These numbers, by their conspicuous absence, also underscore the profound loneliness experienced by the characters . The hole gradually becomes a catalyst that compels each character to fix it. At this level the hole non-literally enables them to fill an emptiness in their lives. The woman hopelessly tries to fix the hole by sealing it off with a mop. In contrast, the man ignores the hole and even pours or pukes liquids through it. The differential nature of their actions reveal the different attitudes of men and women towards the concept of romantic involvements. In the climax of the film the man lifts the downtrodden woman through the hole. This particular frame is captured by the shot of his hand reaching through the hole with the light piercing the darkness of her apartment below. Eventually in the face of a great cataclysm, they repair their respective holes in life. The central philosophy behind The Hole is that most often lonesome conditions of humans can be analyzed better by recognizing our striking failure to communicate with those who may be right under our nose.

The film won a FIPRESCI Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film festival.

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