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Movie Review: Hole In The Ground

Passed out girl has her eyelid opened

A teenager has his chest and back spray painted red, then enters a convenience store to terrorize the clerk while the kid’s nitwit friend captures the entire encounter on video. Is this a Jackass-inspired stunt with a couple of wannabe Steve-Os gone horribly wrong?

No, it’s the opening scene to the new short film by young Australian director Kenta McGrath called Hole in the Ground. It’s an incredibly effective scene that’s played so realistically that if it were cut out of the film, uploaded to YouTube on its own, viewers would believe it actually happened. Although Kenta and his crew, including excellent cinematographer Hugh Thomson, have only made a handful of short films, they have exhibited an impressive degree of self-assuredness in their work in both this and their previous success Welcome to Pipe Mountain.

The intensity of that first scene, however, doesn’t continue through the rest of the film. This is a Jackass episode as directed by Stanley Kubrick, mostly 2001 with just a touch of a Clockwork Orange tossed in here and there.

Cody Fern, who stars as Zack, even slightly resembles a young Malcolm McDowell, but without the intense sex appeal. Zack appears to be not only completely sexless, but emotionless, as well. He aimlessly wanders the streets of Perth, Australia — which looks like a very pretty city, by the way — with his video camera in hand looking to record some mischief. Sometimes he finds some, sometimes he doesn’t. But McGrath drives home the point here that the only time Zack can feel anything is when it’s happening on camera.

As long as it’s somebody else on camera, that is. There’s also a current of repressed homosexuality running through Zack, too, as first he seems only able to deal with girls when he’s humiliating them on camera — again, sometimes his “victims” are aware of it, sometimes they aren’t. But even more interestingly later, when Zack shares an innocuous tender moment with a male friend (Nate Doherty), he flips out when he believes his actions might be recorded.

Eventually, of course, Zack’s antics take him to their inevitable conclusion, when he finally must decide if he can go “all the way” whereupon his eyes are opened to what sort of person he is. This is the equivalent to the infamous “therapy” segments of A Clockwork Orange, but rather than occurring midway like in Kubrick’s film, this is the climax to Hole in the Ground.

Without giving too much away, the ending of the film can be read any number of ways, probably left up to each individual viewer’s opinion on human nature. Honestly, mine’s fairly low, so I didn’t see the film as having a redemptive or a “lesson learned” ending. Zack’s a shit. He was a shit. He’ll always be a shit. Other interpretations may vary.

Like Zack, Hole in the Ground is a fairly emotionally distant film and shot very coldly with extremely long takes in which the architecture of the city nearly overwhelms the main character. Zack is a very small person in a very large world. Even with the monstrous things he does, the city still goes on and is completely unaffected by anything he does.

One last thing about the look of the film, notes for it say it was shot on both 16mm film and on video. Yet I found the two formats virtually indistinguishable. What I really enjoyed is that there weren’t any goofy indications that certain segments were caught on video, e.g. a blinking “Record” light in the corner of the screen. I hate that kind of thing. By choosing not to make the video look different, it effectively states that there’s no difference between the real world around Zack and the world he captures in his camera.

Hole in the Ground movie trailer:

Hole in the Ground Image Gallery:


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