The Dig Review The Buff and The Blazer
There is something quaint about Simon Stone’s The Dig. It takes place in the English countryside and deals with seemingly unimpressive burial mounds. While that is right up our alley at the Buff and The Blazer, it may seem a bit boring for those unfamiliar with archaeology. There are no impressive pyramids or ancient ruins to fascinate. But the film has a lot less to do with spectacle and all to do with its deeper themes. It brings up questions about life and mortality. At the same time, it also explores topics of legacy and purpose. All those themes deliver a film that is emotionally deeper than meets the eye.
These themes are massive, but we will do our best to tackle their presentation in the film. One of the main characters, Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), has a difficult time with those themes. Without spoiling too much, she has experienced her fair share of death and mortality. The experiences she faces in her past and those she faces in the present story weigh on her. The character’s circumstances lead her to think about her connections with people living and deceased. It also causes her to think about the responsibilities she has to those around her. Ultimately, Edith is more concerned about those left behind while mortality is constantly over her shoulder.
Peggy Piggot (Lily James) is a character that reflects themes about life and living in the present. Peggy’s circumstances leave her feeling somewhat unappreciated. Yet, perhaps even worse, Peggy is unfulfilled. Her unhappiness is more than just surface-level pouting. It begins to affect her more as the film progresses. She makes a decision near the end of the film that causes one to think about fulfillment and what it means to be content in life.
No character better exemplifies the themes of legacy and purpose in The Dig than Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes). Basil is an extremely experienced excavator/archaeologist. He knows about history and the excavation process, among many things. Mrs. Pretty first employs him to excavate the mounds. When he makes a discovery, the British Museum gets involved along with a more distinguished archaeologist Charles Phillips (Ken Stott), who takes over. Unable to deal with working under a man as pompous and authoritative as Phillips, Brown leaves the excavation. Things become interesting when he decides to come back to the project.
Brown’s wife, May (Monica Dolan), reminds him of the purpose he has in his work. For him, the work is more than prestige or merit. It’s all about giving current and future generations a connection to their past. That purpose also goes beyond the idea of legacy. The film says that after excavations, Basil Brown received no acknowledgment. He was ultimately forgotten. For the character in the film, Basil seems little concerned with his legacy. So much so that he is willing to return to work for Phillips. All of this isn’t to say that legacy has no worth or that Basil’s lack of acknowledgment in the project is unimportant. Instead, it gets at the broader questions of why we make certain decisions and what drives us.
Ultimately The Dig is a film less about archaeology and more about uncovering some of the searching questions we all have as human beings.
The Dig is available on Netflix!
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