The Hole (1960 film)

This article is about the 1960 film. For other uses, see The Hole.
Le Trou

Theatrical poster, Leroy (left) and Keraudy
Directed by Jacques Becker
Produced by Serge Silberman
Screenplay by Jacques Becker
José Giovanni
Jean Aurel
Based on The Break by José Giovanni
Starring Michel Constantin
Jean Keraudy
Philippe Leroy
Distributed by Titanus
Release dates
18 March 1960 (1960-03-18)
Running time
132 minutes
Country France
Language French

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]


Four long-sentence prisoners are determined to escape. Before they can start digging a tunnel, the prison staff puts a new convict, Gaspard, into their cell. They have no choice but to fill him in. At first he's enthusiastic about taking part in the getaway, but as the tunnel nears completion he discovers he will be released soon anyway, because the main witness against him has had a change of heart. Ignorant of this, Roland, Manu and Géo keep following through on their plan until it becomes evident that Gaspard has betrayed them.



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.


  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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