by Ian Morton
‘From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we’re part of something continuous.’ says Basil Brown, echoing the resonant theme at the heart of Netflix latest drama, The Dig. Set on the eve of World War 2, the film documents one of the most significant archaeological findings of the 20th Century, a bounty of Anglo-Saxon remains thought to shed light on the dark ages of British history.
Ralph Fiennes plays Basil Brown, the amateur archaeologist hired by landlady Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) to investigate a series of mounds located on the grounds of her home. Both Brown and Pretty are keen to uncover the secrets of their past, quickly developing a kinship despite being from very different social classes, bonding over their respect for history.
Beautifully shot by Mike Ely, the film makes the most of the Surrey countryside as it pans wide, flat vistas and takes advantage of the boundless summer sunshine. The sense of a calm before the storm of World War 2 is rife and the massive landscapes do a great job of giving us a sense of place – both in time and location.
The film gently deals with mortality in a poignant and thought-provoking way, layering the significant findings in a small field in Surrey to the equally significant events of the time. These careful, well balanced themes made real by a host of immensely three dimensional performances give the film a melancholic but wholly emotive core that goes much deeper than you would first expect from the film about a man digging.
The Dig is out on Netflix right now!
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