The Hole (1960 film)

The Hole (French: Le Trou) is a 1960 French crime film directed by Jacques Becker. It is an adaptation of José Giovanni's 1957 book The Break. It was called The Night Watch when first released in the United States, but is released under its French title today. The film is based on a true event concerning five prison inmates in La Santé Prison in France in 1947. Director Becker, who died just weeks after shooting had wrapped, used mostly non-actors for the film's main roles, including one man (Jean Keraudy) who was actually involved in the 1947 escape attempt, and who introduces the film.[1] It was entered into the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Le Trou
Theatrical poster, Leroy (left) and Keraudy
Directed byJacques Becker
Produced bySerge Silberman
Screenplay byJacques Becker
José Giovanni
Jean Aurel
Based onThe Break by José Giovanni
StarringMichel Constantin
Marc Michel
Jean Keraudy
Philippe Leroy
Raymond Meunier
Music byPhilippe Arthuys
CinematographyGhislain Cloquet
Edited byMarguerite Renoir
Geneviève Vaury
Distributed byTitanus
Release date
18 March 1960 (1960-03-18)
Running time
132 minutes


Four cellmates who expect long prison sentences, or execution by guillotine, are determined to escape. Before they can start digging a tunnel, the prison staff puts a man arrested for attempted first-degree murder, Gaspard, into their cell. They have no choice but to fill him in. At first he is enthusiastic about taking part in the getaway, but as the tunnel nears completion the warden tells him that his alleged victim has withdrawn the charges and that he will be released soon. Returning to the cell, Gaspard has to dispel the suspicions of his cellmates that he turned them in. He does, and they continue with the escape as planned. However, in the last moments, before the five are just about to leave through their tunnel, they understand that they have been betrayed. The last scene is of the four cons being stripped to their underwear before going into solitary confinement, and of Gaspard, walking to his cell down the hall, clothed in his escapee street clothes, where he will await discharge.



According to the 1964 press materials that are included in The Criterion Collection DVD, Jacques Becker first read of the 1947 La Santé Prison escape attempt in a newspaper. Years later, he found out that José Giovanni had fictionalized the same escape attempt in his 1957 novel The Break. Becker contacted Giovanni's publisher, Gallimard, and Becker and Giovanni collaborated on the screenplay of Le Trou.

During production, Becker hired three of the attempted escapees as technical consultants. One of the consultants, Roland Barbat (using the stage name Jean Keraudy), appears in the film as the character Roland Darbant, who plans the escape tunnel and improvises all the tools they use.[3]

Barbat also appears at the beginning of the film as himself, working on a Citroën 2CV. (Barbat became a mechanic after prison.) He states directly to the camera that we are about to see his true story.


The black and white cinematography is by Ghislain Cloquet (Mickey One, Au hasard Balthazar, Tess).

The scene where three different characters take turns breaking through the concrete floor of their cell is filmed in a single, nearly four minute long, shot.

There is no musical score except under the end credits.

The film has no opening credits.

See also

Mateo Falcone (analogous situation)


  1. Darragh O’Donoghue "Le Trou", senses of cinema website.
  2. "Festival de Cannes: The Hole". Retrieved 2009-02-18.
  3. Le Trou. The Criterion Collection, 2001. ISBN 0-78002-402-8.
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