The hill and the pit

Greater is the void where man has been than where he has not. The space between the stars is not empty, but there is no more terrible void then a derelict dwelling.
Miroslav Holub

This double portrait brings together two places violated by man: the slag heap of a former coal mine in the Borinage region (Belgium) and the quarry of a lignite mine in the Cologne/Aachen region (Germay).
In The hill we look around the deserted and derelict La Marcasse mine in French speaking Belgium. Since the decline of the coal industry in the mid 20th century, time has stood still. The atmosphere of a region left to its fate is shaped by overgrown heaps.
In this part of the film we meet several people who are trying to survive among the scars of time. The man who has bought the ruins of La Marcasse is trying to realize his dream: a children’s zoo. His rootless neighbor does his best to keep alive his East European origins and culture. Another old neighbor has difficulty recovering from the physical consequences of years underground. The young seem least weighed down by the past. For them, this deserted land is an ideal site for motor cross.
In The pit, we find ourselves at Tagebau Hambach in the German province of Nordrhein-Westfalen. In stark contrast with La Marcasse, work is still in full swing here. We see the driver of a gigantic earth moving vehicle doing his work in the quarry that is kilometers long, forming the core of the landscape. Age old layers of earth are revealed. Forests, estates, villages – everything has to make way for the advancing quarry. In this dislocated landscape, all propositions have lost and human size is the only measure.
The damage done seems limited. New nature is on its way. Millions of trees have been planted, recreational lakes and fields will have wiped out all the traces of mining in 60 years time. As if all this work, this present has never been.
A film about the rhymelessness of existence and the transient nature of things.

Producer: Leendert Pot en Michel Schöpping for Geelprodukt
Camera: Willem Heshusius
Sound: Karel Evers

Festivals and screenings

  • 2001 Nederlands Film Festival
  • 2001 Gent
  • 2002 St Flour
  • The film is broadcasted by the VPRO.