A review of the new film “The Dig”

It’s 1939 and war clouds are gathering over Europe and fighter aircraft – from RAF Martlesham (incidentally now the site of BT’s research centre) – are in the skies over Suffolk. Wealthy landowner and widower Lady Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) engages local excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to investigate the mounds on her land, leading to a wonderful discovery of Anglo-Saxon remains.

This might seem an unlikely narrative for a film but it works very well – in effect telling three inter-linked stories: the revelation that the Dark Ages were not so dark, the classic prejudices of pre-war Britain, and a subplot involving a romance between two young characters (played by Lily James and Johnny Flynn).

Fiennes is brilliant as the wise local and demonstrates a fine Suffolk accent. Mulligan is an odd choice for the role of Pretty since she is a full two decades younger than the character she is portraying, but she is a marvellous actor and I guess that the early declaration that this is “based on a true story” allows for interpretation rather than strict representation.

Having watched this quiet and charming film, one wants to run round immediately to the British Museum to which Pretty donated the Sutton Hoo find but, since Netflix released the movie in the middle of a third coronavirus lockdown, sadly this is not possible.


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