Director: Michelangelo Frammartino

Country: Italy, France, Germany

Year: 2021

Duration: 1.33

Languages: Italian / subtitled in English

Original name: Il buco

Category: , ,

Le quattro volte (2010) by Michelangelo Frammartino is one of the most perfect yet peculiar films of the 21st century. It observes the cycle of people, animals, and the soul through humour and poeticism. The value of Frammartino’s film has only increased because he has not made another film until now.

The semi-documentary The Hole (Il buco) takes us to Italy at the height of the 1960s boom. While the tallest building in Europe is being built in the north, a small team of scientists descends into the third deepest cave in the world. The film depicts the scientists’ descent as well as the daily life of a nearby village.

Shepherds gather around a campfire, while the villagers surround a black-and-white television: the understanding about the mysteries of the universe is expanded by diving into the depths of entertainment, animal imitations, and geological layers of the earth. In the beginning, the camera steps outside as in Plato’s allegory of the cave, but true knowledge can be found by returning into the cave. The icons and celebrities of the time are just disappearing dust in the face of universal mysteries.

The film can be placed in the same frontline of contemporary Italian documentaries and hybrid films made famous around the world by Gianfranco Rosi, Pietro Marcello, and Roberto Minervini. Frammartino’s curious camera has been baptised with the gentle humour of Roy Andersson and Jacques Tati and is supported by beautiful natural imagery.

The work pace and quality of Milan-based Michelangelo Frammartino (born in 1968) are in the same category with Victor Erice, a long-time maker of masterpieces. Frammartino started his studies with architecture but then changed to the Civica Scuola del Cinema film school. In most of his works, the industrialised, urban North-Italian has turned his gaze toward the south and the Calabria of his grandparents, as he did in his debut Il dono in 2003. Operating between documentary film and art installations, Frammartino premiered his breakthrough film Le quattro volte (2010) in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs series at Cannes, after which it toured festivals around the globe. Frammartino’s latest film The Hole (Il buco) premiered in the main series of Venice Film Festival in 2021. (Otto Kylmälä)