The Dig

The Dig: A Review

It can be easy to overlook the beauty of one’s surroundings. I’ve lived in Suffolk nearly my entire life and I often forget how lucky I am to live in this part of the world. Watching The Dig reminded me of this.

Set on the eve of World War II, The Dig tells the story of the excavation of Sutton Hoo. It stars Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, a self-taught archaeologist who helps discover the Anglo-Saxon burial ship, alongside Carey Mulligan and Lily James. Mulligan plays widow Edith Pretty, who employs Brown to excavate the tumuli.

Carey Mulligan has recently been nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in Promising Young Woman – set to be released in the UK later this month.

Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig
Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig – Larry Horricks Netflix 2021

There’s something about Suffolk

Locations used in the film include Thorpeness Beach, Shingle Street, a footpath in Snape on Suffolk Wildlife Trust land and RSPB site Boyton Marsh. It’s a stunningly shot film and well worth a watch, if only to view the beauty of the Suffolk countryside on screen. Mark Kermode commented upon how the cinematographer Mike Eley ‘beautifully captures the lonely beauty of the open English landscapes’.

A Scene from The Dig

Larry Horricks Netflix 2021

Ralph Fiennes’ Suffolk accent is also thoroughly impressive. You can read how he mastered the accent in our exclusive interview with Jay Ducker, Ralph Fiennes’ assistant on The Dig.

Interestingly the film is an adaptation of John Preston’s novel about the Sutton Hoo dig. Another fun fact is that the Anglo-Saxon helmet, which is one of the most recognised pieces of the excavation, does not appear on screen. This is because it wasn’t until 1945 that the helmet was reconstructed.

It’s an understated film and certainly not the pick for you if you’re after a thrilling ride. Nevertheless, it offers an insight into a man who found comfort in the natural world, something that seems particularly relatable in these dark times. In fact Brown’s outlook somehow makes me think of Amanda Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb, which she read at the inauguration of President Biden last month.

‘For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.’

BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz called The Dig ‘a thoroughly enjoyable film made with subtlety and sensitivity: a real tonic for these bleak winter days and nights.’ I couldn’t agree more.

The Dig is available to watch on Netflix.

Written by Hebe Dobson-Mouawad

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