Michelangelo Frammantino presented an unusual hybrid of feature and documentary film in the main program of the festival in Venice. And not only presented, he also won a special jury award for “Il buco” or “The Hole”, and although from the first scene to the last this film looks like a documentary, it is still a feature film. In the summer of 1961, Italian speleologists found a more than 700 meter deep hole in the ground in the very south of Italy, in the karst areas of the Calabria region. Today, it is known that this hole, which is located in the area of the Pollino mountain massif, is the third deepest known such hole, and in his film Frammantino decided to show how it looked more than 60 years ago when speleologists first descended to the bottom of the hole.
That’s how he found 12 young speleologists who, with six-decade-old equipment, set out to descend into the hole in the footsteps of their predecessors. So even though “Il buco” is nominally a feature film, stylistically and technically it is more like a documentary because the camera captures wide shots of untouched nature that really take your breath away. Karst areas with white rocks that stand out in the middle of green meadows and pastures where cows still bleat, and are guarded by people who we could imagine in the same place a hundred or two hundred years ago. And in the middle of the meadow is that mysterious hole that, like an eye from the ground, looks at everyone who approaches it and where the locals have lived for centuries.
In the introduction, Frammantino offers both the social background and the circumstances of the time, so while in a short documentary we see the largest skyscraper in Europe being built in Italy, the far south of the country seems to be on another planet. People live there as they used to live, in a traditional way of life, and the spirit of modernity seems not to have touched them in the early sixties. In contrast to the speleologists who descend into the hole and try to reach its end, there is also an old cow guard who observes from a distance what is happening and what kind of strange people have arrived in their hole. “The Hole” was an extremely unusual, exotic, observational and contemplative film in which there is almost no dialogue, and instead of man, nature is the main protagonist here.