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The Dig Movie Review - Excavating Affection

The Dig is one of those rare romances you will definitely dig.  


The year is 1939. A man is summoned to excavate the large burial mounds at a rural estate in Sutton Hoo. The man is Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes). The estate he scoops on belongs to a woman named Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan; a terrific actress who never goes wrong. She aptly justifies her character's last name). When Edith first takes Brown to the site, we follow them with a handheld shot, putting us on a walk with them. Elsewhere, The Dig (based on the 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston) offers exquisite wide shots to provide us with a chance to bask in its beauty. However, it's also more than just sight-seeing. These magnificent shots contradict something infelicitous that's yet to cross their path and others in the film.

Among the many tumuli, Edith has her eyes on a particular one. Her instincts inform her to dig it up or, more appropriately, tell Mr. Brown to dig it up. But Brown has other plans. He doesn't think it worth spending time on. So he follows his intuitions and starts from somewhere else. Ultimately, he does realize that Edith and her instincts might just be right. As he delves deeper into the mound, he uncovers iron rivets from a ship. Soon, everyone starts agreeing with Brown's belief that the mounds date back to Anglo-Saxons rather than Vikings. This find proves to be groundbreaking, so the news spreads like a fire. Soon a Cambridge archaeologist, Charles Phillips (Ken Stott), arrives. 

Director Simon Stone follows an unusual approach for editing the conversations. The characters talk, but we don't see them talking. Instead, we hear the lines while they would either silently look at each other or simply sit and relish the moment. I have a theory: Stone omits the majority of the dialogue-speaking-action to allow the characters to live in each other's presence without the redundancy of the mentioned action. When Edith and Brown share a bit about their educational backgrounds, he is seen smoking a pipe while she observes his activity. In a standard approach, these two would have been talking. Here, by pushing the dialogue in the background, Stone allows them to savor each other's company. We know how a couple proposes. Why not catch them seconds after the declaration while they hug in joy with a never-ending smile on the faces. For a change, let's linger on this happiness for a while instead of hurrying to the next scene. Words like "I love you" and "will you marry me?" can reside with the background music. 

But such grand declarations are never uttered in The Dig. How can they? Edith is a widow with a young son named Robert (Archie Barnes). Mr. Brown has a Mrs. Brown (Monica Dolan). There is another couple - Peggy (Lily James) and Stuart (Ben Chaplin) - who have their own problems. Peggy gets attracted to Rory (Johnny Flynn), but she can't break off her marriage. The task is then put on to certain events for the necessary communication. An accident agitates Edith, opening up her feelings for Mr. Brown. She shouts his name in an attempt to bring back his consciousness. The CPR becomes their forbidden kiss. Brown fancies her too. His eyes reflect endearment when they rest on Edith. That's the reason why there's a trace of jealousy on her face when she comes to know of Mrs. Brown. What does she do with this feeling? Nothing. She accepts the situation. The romance still exists, hidden in the doting gazes. The thing is, Mrs. Brown is aware of this mute bond (and probably some other people know about it too). What does she do? She understands the pain, the love existing inside her husband and Edith - "You say your goodbyes to the old girl. Do you take care of her." Peggy, too, shows maturity and sets herself and her husband free from the shackles of a doomed relationship. 

The Dig initially jumps in time. Within next to next scenes, a few days just go by, or two characters become so close that they start sharing pipes. It settles in after depressing revelations. It's a way of telling how good times quickly roll by while the pain seems to last longer than necessary. Technicalities aside, what really elevates The Dig is the superb characters and a cast well-equipped with a tremendous amount of talent. You rarely find such people, such characters anymore. In the quest to create money-minting, back-to-back blockbusters, the movies forget to stuff the characters with sympathy. I don't make any best of the year list, but if I did, The Dig would have made it to the top 5. 

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-dig-movie-review-excavating.html
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