Andrija Jovanovic, Head Programmer of Berlin Revolution
“The Hill and The Hole” based on the Fritz Leiber’s short story, represents a work with outstanding
visual aesthetics and unique atmosphere, turning an American southwestern landscape into a the perfect
setting for its surreal plot.
The film represents a great example of the slow cinema. It owes its surreal mood, charged with
mystery and suspense, firstly to its slow and very precise rhythm, which to the all scenes delivers
dream like atmosphere, resembling trance or a daydreaming. Except it allows the viewer to absorb all
the drowsiness and the mysticism of the rich imagery, it also simulates the sluggishness of a dream in
which every action and thought of the character is slowed down like in a vacuum, and the border
between reality and fantasy has been erased.
To this slow paced rhythm beside the narrative certainly contributes the acting style of the
protagonists. The dialogue sequences irresistibly recall the atmosphere of the David Lynch’s films in
which characters often seem not to communicate, separated by the invisible walls. Not at least
unconvincing, the actors in this film manage to capture the unique mood of the timeless limbo into
which the main character gets by insisting to solve the mystery of the geological anomaly.
These long atmospheric “meditations”, in which the bad premonition is growing slowly and stirs up
the tension, are interrupted by sudden surreal visions, which shake up the viewer from the slumber: the
compositing in style of the 80’ represents a perfect tool for this, yielding better results than all the
modern CGI technique and bringing the viewer far more easily into paranormal dimension, playing
with the elements of a horror and science fiction. Except for their obvious narrative purpose, these
collages possess delightful aesthetics of surreal images.
The visuals are definitely defining this film’s powerful atmosphere: beside already mentioned special
effects, the camerawork is excellent – great framing, well balanced wide shots, vintage aesthetics of the
image and its aspect ratio; precise editing that in almost organic way follows the narrative and give the
film its slow, almost meditative flow; color grading that gives film its vintage aesthetics, making it
timeless, like it belongs to its own dimension...
The chosen landscape is also an integral part of the film’s aesthetics. The slumbering nature with its
wide plains covered with grass seems to radiate the ghostly presence of the natives long gone. The
ghostly town keeps in itself all the accumulated charge of the secret its inhabitants are hiding. To the
landscape belongs the central part in the plot itself: the hill which is a key element of this story,
becomes a recognizable leitmotif of the film, in a manner of Spielberg’s Devil tower. Its shape
reappears on the paintings and posters, can be seen in stains on the walls...
All of these elements are creating meditative and atmospheric tale of seemingly asleep rural
community, in which the connection to the nature is still very strong, and belief in ancient supernatural
forces defines the whole outlook on life. Its silent landscape is hiding a portal between dimensions,
where the different epochs, dream and reality intertwine. Through this scenery a viewer is moving
together with the main protagonist, like in some fuzzy daydream, who in this deep search also faces his
own inner demons that hunt him from the past. The surreal moments that from time to time bend the
established film reality, in exquisite way connect dimensions, layers of consciousness and aspects of
the past and presence.
A real treat for the fans of the genre, a bit more demanding for the ordinary viewer, but in any case an
independent cinema at its best!