The Dig; A Review
“Life is very fleeting but there are moments you should seize.”
Interested in Archeology, artifacts or history but with a good deal of life and drama? The Dig is just right for you.
The Story: Synopsis, Settings and Plot
The Dig is a movie released on Netflix on 2021. It is an adaptation of a 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston. It is about a wealthy landowner who asked a self-taught archeologist to dig burial mounds in her property and were surprised with their great finds.
The story took place in Suffolk England in 1939. It revolved around a rich landowner, Edith Pretty (Carrey Mulligan) and a local self-taught archeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) who is married to May Brown. The characters include Edith’s young son Robert, her cousin Rory, and a team of archeologists headed by Charles Phillips, Peggy Pigott and her husband Stuart Pigott.
The story started off with Basil declining Edith’s offer to dig a burial mounds on her land due to insufficient monetary offer but eventually accepting it after upping the price.
Basil believed the mounds could be of Anglo-Saxon rather than a more common Vikings. He worked with the assistants at Edith’s state. Once, the trench collapsed on him but they dig him out in time. He spent more time with Edith and his son, Robert while ignoring the letters from his wife, May. Edith was struggling with her health which she tries to conceal from her son.
The team then were able to discover iron rivets from a ship under the mound that led them to believe that it belongs to a person of great importance such as a king. Local archeologists wanted to join in the dig but was rebuffed by Edith and instead, hired her cousin Rory. But news of the discovery began to spread and Cambridge archaeologists Charles Phillips arrived to say that the discovery is of national importance, therefore, they have to take over. Phillips brought a team of archeologists and Basil was demoted although with Edith’s insistence, was able to continue digging alongside the team.
Peggy Pigott, one member of the team was able to verify that the burial was indeed Anglo-Saxon.Basil found a gold coin so Philipps declared the site to be of major historical importance. He ordered the finds to be brought to the British museum to which Edith contradicted due to her worries on museum raids. She insisted her rights, and through inquest, confirmed that she’s the rightful owner of the treasure trove.
As the digging continued, young Robert became closer and closer to Basil while Edith’s health continue to deteriorate. Peggy, being neglected by her husband Stuart, gradually developed a romantic relationship with Rory.
Edith decided to donate the finds to the British museum requesting Basil to be given recognition for his work. The treasures were first exhibited nine years after her death in 1942 but with no mention of Basil Brown. The treasures were hidden in the British Underground during the war. Only recently that Basil was given full credit alongside Edith’s name permanently on the display at the British museum and is now known as the “Sutton Hoo find.”
Theme, Conflicts and Symbols
The conflicts were typical, the difference between social classes, the illicit affairs, the credit-grabbing.
Charles Philipps is the embodiment of the typical British snob, thinking that his formal education made him better than those who don’t have it. He’s quick to grab the credit but thanks to Edith, a woman with ample enough influence due to her wealth, the credit was given to whom it’s due.
The romantic relationship between Rory and Peggy is what deemed to be of a taboo as dictated by the society. It is illicit to tell the truth, but they broke the norm by seizing the moment albeit not going all the way as to continue it. That’s what it was, a fleeting and short moment of giving what their hearts wanted.
Language, Effects and Acting
The movie gave a melancholic feeling while capturing the quiet but lonely open English landscapes. It gives a bittersweet feeling of unearthing the Sutton Hoo Finds on the eve of the war. The great discovery gave a gentle charm to the silent neighborhood.
The dialogues were short, simple but deep and honest. The actor who played Basil portrayed a quiet confidence despite his inferior education and finances compared to the educated ones. The actor was good at maintaining his calculated Suffolk accent. Edith, however, looks frail from the outside but is full of conviction and dreams. Peggy and Rory are the romantic ones but were scared to face the reality until they were left with no choice. Charles Philipps was characterized with just the right amount of authority but snobbish prevalent to the so-called intellectuals in the past, and quick to take credit while looking down on those who they think were inferior to them.
Robert, on the other hand, is a lively boy who knew his mother was sick but stayed positive. Through Basil’s eyes, Robert was able to see the past, live the present and dream the future.
The Dig is an understatement of a title. It’s intriguing enough to make you watch the movie but not compelling enough to see the movie as soon as you see it.
Edith’s words, “Life is very fleeting but there are moments you should seize,” is impactful. It led to two people to take a moment to be true to themselves and satisfy their hearts despite the society’s standard of propriety. There are times in our life that society dictates what we should and should not do, but as long as the heart is grieving, we can’t be truly happy. So we sometimes grab that opportunity, that even for a while, we’ll be happy.
Robert, the young boy, is a personification of the contradiction. They were digging for traces of the past while he knew, the next grave they’ll be digging won’t be an exciting one. He shows how the present should be lived; just the right amount of the past, a whole lot of the future and a great amount of the present.
We are sometimes worried about what the future might bring. But just as the unearthed treasure trove, they never had the idea of being of great significance in the distant future. Nobody really knows. So live the present. Enjoy your time. Seize the moment.