Review Il Buco: very exciting and yet mighty calm

Il Buco by director Michelangelo Frammartino is an incomparable masterpiece.

Having a fear of heights and then going down into an immensely deep cave to realize your new feature film. Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino did it along with twelve acting speleologists and a handful of crew members. Frammartinos The buco is a free re-creation of the 1961 expedition that mapped the Abisso del Bifurto: an underground, serpentine abyss in the Calabrian Pollino Mountains that leads to 687 meters underground and was at that time considered the third deepest cave in the world. Frammartino and his gang went down on the spot, descended for four hours, climbed for four hours. They had to take the trip more than thirty times before all shots fired The buco was on it.

Call it the passion of a unique filmmaker, call it self-excerpt. In any case, it has resulted in a – literally – incomparable masterpiece that also sends the public on a journey of discovery. Like the speleologists, young people descending from northern Italy to the south, you as a spectator make your way through the partially vertical cave: groping past the images, the echo of voices, steps and water droplets resounding around you and an intense black darkness flowing completely into the darkness of the cinema. With a little luck, you will appear as a different person.

The buco (‘The hole’), a film that deserves the biggest possible screenplay, was awarded several times at the Venice Film Festival, including the Special Jury Prize. The film’s seeds were planted in 2007 when Frammartino sought locations for his previous production, Pastoral Reincarnation Narrative The four times (2010). The mayor of Alessandria del Carretto took him to the Bifurto gorge, where Frammartino really realized that such complete underground worlds exist. Despite his fear of heights, Frammartino trained as an amateur peleologist before visiting the gorge for the first time in 2016.

The astonishment he must have felt then is what Frammartino conveys with the almost dialogueless The buco perfect though. It is also certainly thanks to Renato Berta’s masterful cinematography. The now 77-year-old camera veteran has worked with several cinema celebrities, and said yes because he had never filmed in total darkness. Berta’s digital camera was connected to a monitor with a nearly one kilometer long optical cable so he could control the recordings from the ground floor. Only the lights on the researchers’ helmets served as a light source; sometimes even a burning magazine that was thrown down like a makeshift torch.

What magisterial, unforgettable images that produce. Light that caresses, flickers, jumps and rolls along damp rock surfaces never before captured on film. Striking is the calm with which it The buco everything is busy. Relaxing sight and calmly swinging, the camera work absorbs both the precision work of the speleologists and the undisturbed, timeless depth of the cave. It does The buco something miraculous: incredibly exciting, yet mightily calm.

One must let go of the need for a tight plot, or for characters that are easy to identify with. While most other filmmakers would have chosen one of the speleologists as the main character, Frammartino and co-screenwriter Giovanna Giuliani portray them as a homogeneous group of enthusiasts, without getting to know the scientists more closely. It goes in The buco rather, because of their place in space, their relationship to the elements. Often, Frammartino sees the men (and a few women) from a distance, from the darkness of the cave or, in the supernatural scenes, already beautifully photographed as they look down on their camp from above. The gorge, the clouds and the mountains get their own perspective, in The buco

And then there is the appearance of the old cowherd Nicola (Nicola Lanza, a real shepherd who died last year). From his fixed resting place, he sees the scientists arrive at the valley, pitch their tents and take the first exploratory steps down into the abyss. The further they get down, the more sick Nicola gets. A parallel that is touched on by Frammartino rather than stressed.

The buco also comments on the economic backwardness of the Italian south compared to the prosperous north. Watch, for example, the TV report that the inhabitants of the nearby village watch a café square where the reporter ascends with a window-cleaning lift The Milano Pirelli skyscraper, completed in 1961: an ascending capitalist symbol against a natural phenomenon that is, if you will, colonized by northerners. Such societal critique, however, remains subcutaneous in il buco, Which one never loses its organic, gently mysterious character.

With that continues The buco the way to The four turns, a film that mainly showed how a shepherd’s soul jumps into a newborn goat, how the animal transforms into a tree, and the tree again into a mineral. Frammartino proves himself with The buco once again as a genius at giving associations. Particularly beautiful is the moment when a doctor shines his light into Nicola’s eyes, and the film shifts to the scientists’ light shooting through the cave. As if there is no longer any difference in body and landscape, between inside and out, between the variety in an underground cave and that in a subdued consciousness.

IN The buco Such compounds are readily available as long as you give your imagination and attention freely. It does not have to be that difficult. Once you get used to the darkness, you will only see sharper.


Michelangelo Frammartino, he discovered something special while researching The buco† After the speleologists descended the Bifurto Gorge in 1961, they kept the huge feat all to themselves. “Unbelievable,” Frammartino told Filmmaker Magazine. Such a thing would be unthinkable for our generation. If we do not publish what we do, it is as if we have not done it at all. ”

Filming – Il buco

Fairy tale
Directed by Michelangelo Frammartino
With Nicola Lanza, Paolo Cossi, Denise Trombin, Jacopo Elia.
93 min., In 36 halls.

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