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“The Hole” (1998 Film, Taiwan) Ming-liang


“The Hole” is a 1998 Taiwanese drama-musical film that was directed by Tsai-Ming-liang and starred Lee-Kang-sheng. In this film, an epidemic swarmed Taiwan. The main setting takes place in an apartment building with a woman on the lower floor and a man on the upper floor directly above her. The major conflict was how the woman had an issue with the piping in her apartment, which ruined her apartment by floodwater, due to plumbing issues.


At the start, a black screen was shown to symbolize the sick people resting in a hole, so they can recover from the pathogen they caught. Then, a public health announcement was shared over the emergency intercom to state that there is a unique disease spreading around, so people in the area were asked to quarantine. Upon the news, the film turned over to an apartment building that decided to turn off their water in seven days to force people to evacuate the building. The two characters, a man that lived upstairs and a woman that lived directly below him had conflicts throughout until the very end where they fell in love and had a happy life. In the man’s apartment, the plumber cut open a hole to expose the pipes because the woman below him was experiencing plumbing issues. Following the visit, the man stayed in his apartment and went to the basement, where he has his own food store. When he was there, a man was crawling on the floor looking for a dark hole because he was infected. The sanitation department came to disinfect the area in order to prevent the spread of the pathogen, so he returned to his apartment.


As the man was doing his adventures, the woman stayed in her apartment and the hallways and every time she was upset, tired or angry, awkward music interludes were shown to emphasize the wave of emotions. Although this is a movie about an infectious disease, it was quite awkward that this was a musical because the musical sequences were only shown when the woman was feeling great emotion. At the end, the woman got infected with the virus and the man started checking up on her by peeking down in the hole, but she was unresponsive. The man waited for some time for her to come out and when she did come out, the man gave her a glass of water which allowed her to recover to the resolution.


Filmmaker Tsai-Ming-liang is known for making films that have unique storylines. This film stood out the most because outbreaks of pathogens are real. Ming-liang’s use of plot was extremely successful because it’s relatable to today’s COVID-19 Pandemic, which is deadly but not as dramatic as this movie. In many Taiwanese films, such as Ming-liang’s “Rebel of Neon God” and Hou-Hsiao-hsien’s “Dust in the Wind”, there tends to be flooding problems due to the plumbing systems. Upon watching this movie, viewers will realize that they will be thankful of what they have access to and what they have.

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