Recreating an archaeological discovery from the ground down

GODALMING, England – Completely covered with earth, with only his face visible, Ralph Fenness lay patiently on the ground. Director Simon Stone New Netflix drama, “Dig, “Peered at a monitor, then nodded.” Let’s go, “he said. Fiennes closed his eyes, and a waiting crew poured mud over his head, burying him completely. Carrie Mulligan ahead. Scrambled, stricken with horror, and started dragging on the ground.

“I wasn’t really acting; It was scary, “she said when the scene was over, Fiennes, with an unstable laugh and looking disgruntled, was dust-stained and getting ready to do it again.

It is one of the most dramatic archeological discoveries of the last century in some of the most dramatic scenes in “The Deag”: the discovery, in 1939 A sixth-century Anglo-Saxon burial ship in Sutton Hoo, A small area along the banks of a river in Suffolk on the east coast of Britain.

The land belonged to Edith Pretty (Mulligan), a wealthy, but widow, deeply interested in archeology, who had long been keen on the mounds growing in her fields. The film begins when he hires a local man, Basil Brown (Fiennes), a self-taught excavator to investigate as World War II.

Both Preity and Brown were convinced that there was something to discover; Neither was imagined that this would be an archaeological discovery that would change perceptions of early European history. The ship, which had been descended from a nearby river, was effectively a burial chamber, provided for its luxurious living bed to stay in and a trip to its other world with money, food, household goods and art. . (Sundar donated it all For the British Museum.)

“It changes everything!” Takes out Charles Phillips (Ken Stott), a Cambridge academic who accuses him of digging when he gets news of the discovery. “These people were not just bartering. They had culture! They had art! They had money! “

On January 29, “Dig,” was adapted from John Preston’s 2007 novel of the same name by Moira Buffini (“Harlots”). Preston finds out that his aunt, Peggy Pigot (played in the movie by Lily James), was involved in the dig. And his subsequent research, he Said in an interview, “A Treasure Story for Growing Up.” It is the story of an unlikely relationship between Brown and Preity between class and gender barriers, and to find out about a magnificent ancient civilization as the world progresses towards the catastrophe of war.

Stone, known in Europe as a theater and opera director Radically reimagined canonical works like “Varma“And” La Triviata, “spent their early years in Britain, but returned with their family back to their native Australia at 12 o’clock.” Dig “is his second film (later) “daughter”), And its period of gentleness, inertia and slow pace in time and space is an important departure from much of its previous work.

But Gabrielle Tana, who produced the film, said that as soon as she met Stone, she knew she was the right director. “Various directors were involved with the project, and did not work for one reason or another,” she said. Stone ”talked about how important it is to preserve the remains and artifacts of our civilization so that we do not forget our past. I had to hug her; He wanted to do it, but he always has five operas and six plays on the go. “

She was successful, and critics praised her approach to the story. “Stone proves to be an unexpectedly ideal match for material – like Peter Weir and Warwick Thornton, he has a distinctly Australian feel to the mystery and strangeness of a landscape and can easily be postcard-beautiful, giving you The catcher has a lighter texture. Off-guard, “Robbie Coleen Written in The Telegraph.

In a telephone interview from Berlin, Stone said she was drawn to “how unconventional the story was in its packaging, how unpublished.”

“I was fascinated by the challenge in making these characters, constrained by their time and personality,” he said, “as any contemporary character as life-energized as I would direct in a play.”

To that end, Stone said, he tried to keep the actors “very comfortable, very free, very comfortable”. Actors, often asked to improvise lines after their scripted exchanges ended, did not know where the other actors would stand or move in a scene; The director of photography, Mike Ealy, was not told where the characters would be placed. Sometimes, Stone said, these methods are “badly inaccurate, but more often it leads to a kind of spontaneity that makes our ideas contradictory to the humanized period drama.”

Fiennes, who was born in Sufolk and has returned to the region regularly throughout his life, said he had “a particularly strong sense of attaining it” about Tulsi’s pronunciation and customs. He engaged a local coach and cycled around Safolk on an old-fashioned bicycle, dressed in heavy clothes. “You look at the land differently at that speed,” he said. “It played with my sense of basil; He can read the land and soil, where it plateaus and changes, where it dips, what are the opposite. “

But for all the immersion in authentic character detail, Fiennes said he loved the freedom that Stone encouraged in his actors. He said, “I am very trained to focus on the lesson, and I am allowed to run away from it.” “It has an energy that is not repeated and rehearsed.”

The central relationship between Edith and Basil is unusual in a film, Mulligan pointed out, because it is not romantic, but “a simple meeting of the mind, a kinship.” Stone said that they also eliminated the scope of intimacy that was in earlier drafts of the script “because it diminished the original nature of their relationship.” Basil, restricted by his social class, meets Edith, restricted by his gender, but they share the likeness of the soul. “I love the libido of the mind, which is hard to make the body’s libido exciting,” Stone said.

(Sexual tension is meticulously rendered in the film by the attraction between James’ unhappy married Peggy and Rory Lomax, played by Edith Pretty’s dashing young cousin, Johnny Flynn.)

Drawing the excavations themselves was logistically challenging, said production designer, Maria Jorkovic. “We had to physically build the mound, a virgin landscape, with tons of soil and plants, then show the process of disclosure of this 100-foot Saxon ship into the ground,” she said. His strategy was to work backward. “I suggested that we start the shoot with the appearance of the ship, then stack the earth on top of it and go back to the story of the time when Basil first hit a shovel on Earth.”

At that moment, Stone said, as the encroachment war brings a broader sense of uncertainty about the future. It is a feeling, he said, in the midst of an epidemic that is many times more real than we have been for decades. “I think we are all awake to the arrogance of our beliefs that there will not be this type of world-changing moment in our lifetimes,” he said.

But shoveling the earth reminds us, as Tulsi points out, that humans are part of something constant. In Stone’s words: “Digging the earth into the sky can cause an uncanny action when the planes are full. In fact, it is an act of conservation. “

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