Review: ‘The Dig’ Is a Gentle, Hazy Meditation on the Fragility of Life and the Ways It Lingers On –

Posted: February 3, 2021 at 10:54 pm

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Courtesy of Netflix (YouTube)

This weekend's Netflix release,The Dig, is ostensibly a retelling of the excavation of Sutton Hoo. But much like the Anglo-Saxon burial ship discovered there, the film quickly revealsitself to be a vessel for the past, with all its strange, sweet, sadreminders of the fragility of life, and the ways it lingers on.

The Dig, directed by Simon Stone, written byMoira Buffini, and shot by Mike Eley, stars all the heavy-hitting British actorsyou could hope for: top-billed Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Ken Stott, Ben Chaplain. For all their collective star power, however, there are no Oscar-hopeful speeches, no dramatic transformations. (You may read about Ralph Fiennes's acting as suchit is instead subtle and honest.)Each actor isbeautifully, graciously, carefullyin service of the story and atmosphere. Every element of the film is, in fact.

From the script to the cinematography, The Digis a gentle, hazy meditation on death and how we live with it. Director Simon Stonesaid, "I loved the challenge of how to make this an unconventional period thriller, to ask, what's going to happen?" and what will they discover? and is the war coming? and at the same time to make it an elegiac, poetic, longing film, tinged in sadness."

To achieve that, Buffini's script, bolstered by Stone's bold direction, confidently ignores the typical beats of manyin its genre, those well-meaningbased-on-a-true-story stories. The classic story arc is in there somewhere, with itsstops and sputterswrenches thrown in the gears of the excavation and the lives of our characters. ButThe Dig, with its almost montage-like pacing and its consistent and unusual use of vaguelyextratemporal voiceover, moves past them with grace. Scenes shift and bleed into one another like the morning Suffolk mist, "trying," as Johnny Flynn's character says, "to fix things as they go past." And while on occasion I would have liked to sit in a scene, it is mostly for the best thatThe Digshifts and flowsas it does. Even as I was watching, this film already felt like a memorylandscapes and faces out a car window somewhere in our collective past.

The Digis a memento morian objet d'artthatpoints with patiencetowards The End. It is a true story that has all the hallmarks of deliberate, calculatedfiction:a young widowdiscovers an Anglo-Saxon burial ship just as she isgrappling with the advent of WWII, her husband's passing, her ownfailing health,what comes after death, and who and what shewill leave behind? Really? Truth, it turns out, is more pointed than fiction. But this adaptation, for all its imagined additions, faithfully and fittingly serves the themes of the true story.As Lily James' and Johnny Flynn's characters musein a thousand years, what will be left of them? Metal camera parts, perhaps a shard of a mug. Of Edith Pretty and Basil Brown: agentle, misty meditation oneternity.

Let us know if this is your type of genre, and if so, tell us in the comments what you think about The Dig after watching it.

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Review: 'The Dig' Is a Gentle, Hazy Meditation on the Fragility of Life and the Ways It Lingers On -

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February 3rd, 2021 at 10:54 pm

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