Couple In A Hole, Belgian writer/director Tom Geens’ second feature is, well, it’s about a couple who live in a hole.

The couple, John (Paul Higgins) and Karen (Kate Dickie), are (formerly) middle class Scottish ex-pats and the hole is a burrow in the middle of a forest in the French Pyrenees. Avoiding all human contact, the pair scratch a meagre existence, surviving on the nuts, berries, mushrooms and grubs John is able to forage or the animals he is able to trap while Karen, who’s somehow managed to develop agoraphobia so severe she cannot leave their hole, stitches furs and quilts.

Figuratively and spiritually in a hole as well literally, it gradually becomes clear that John and Karen’s self-imposed hermitage is less a rejection of society and more a retreat into all-consuming grief, their response to the death of their son who died in the fire that consumed their nearby home. Traumatised and unable to move on, Karen refuses to leave, feeling her son’s presence in the forest, while John cannot abandon the wife he loves.

Forced to venture into the nearby village to buy medicine when Karen is bitten by a poisonous spider, John encounters former neighbor and Good Samaritan Andre (Jerome Kircher) and, though John is initially hostile, the two men enter into a tentative friendship, John leading a double life he is forced to hide from the isolationist Karen. But when Karen discovers John’s betrayal, their lives spiral into tragedy once more…

A moving, quietly devastating, at times quite harrowing portrait of grief at its most caustic, Couple In A Hole treads quite similar ground to Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, sharing it’s grieving parents retreat into a lush, womblike Eden to cope with their grief but eschewing Antichrist’s talking foxes, self-mutilation and sexual violence, Geens drip feeds the audience, parceling out information, the film’s first third a puzzle to be solved before settling into a more conventional narrative with John’s visit to town and his meeting with Andre.

Emaciated and filthy as a Scottish woman who’s descended into savagery (though you don’t have to go as far as the Pyrenees to see Scottish women descend into savagery, try Coatbridge on a Thursday night…), Dickie once again opens up her particular can of crazy committing fully to the feral Karen but it’s Paul Higgins’ John who impresses as a fundamentally decent, ordinary man pushed into an extraordinary situation and while Karen’s agoraphobic world is dirty and oppressive, restricted to their burrow, John’s is more expansive, lush, verdant, cinematographer Sam Care capturing the beauty and everyday wonder of the landscape John is a part of, aided by Portishead offshoot BEAK>’s contemplative score.

Descending into shrill, ill-judged hysteria in it’s final act, Couple In A Hole is a sincere, if oddball, examination of devastating loss.

Movie Review: Couple In A Hole
3.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author