The Dig Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The Dig / “Dig”

Genre biography, drama
Directed by Simon Stone
Cast: Ralph Fiennes (Basil Brown), Carey Mulligan (Edith Pretty), Lily James (Peggy Piggott), Johnny Flynn (Rory Lomax), Ben Chaplin (Stuart Piggott), Ken Scott (Charles Phillips), Archie Barnes (Robert Pretty) , Monica Dolan (Mae Brown), etc.
Studios Magnolia Mae Films, Netflix
Release year 2021
Site IMDb

One of the two main characters of The Dig, the English excavator Basil Brown (that’s how he introduced himself at meetings, “excavator” – an excavator), was a truly unique person. Born in 1888 to a low-income English farmer, forced to leave school at 12 and worked odd jobs all his life, he nevertheless managed to independently study astronomy to such a level that his work was published in scientific journals, and the book Astronomical Atlases , Maps and Charts: An Historical and General Guide has been reprinted several times. In addition, listening to the radio, Brown independently studied Latin, French, German, Greek and Spanish, and French – to the level of fluency. Brown studied geology, geography, history, archeology and from a very young age took part in all the archaeological excavations that took place in his native county, while keeping a detailed diary. Since Brown had no formal archaeological training, all he could hope for in his excavations was the seasonal work of a digger, and it was this that eventually brought him fame, albeit posthumously.


In 1938, at the invitation of the wealthy landowner Edith Pretty, excavations of barrows on her estate, Basil Brown discovered what would later be called the most significant archaeological find in the UK – the burial boat of the Anglo-Saxon King Redwald from the Wuffing dynasty, the first ruler of East Anglia, about whom anything else is known besides his name. This is one of the largest finds associated with the Dark Ages. However, recognition did not come to Brown immediately, only in recent years his role in conducting these excavations has been recognized by the scientific community, and a simple digger has been mentioned on exhibits from Sutton Hoo.


However, The Dig / “Excavations” is not only the restoration of historical justice in relation to a self-taught archaeologist from Suffolk. John Preston, author of the novel of the same name on which the film is based, moved some dates and events impulsively to talk about more than just archeology. In fact, The Dig is a story about the transience of life, the fear of inevitable death, about our place in this world and what we will leave behind. And here archeology is closely intertwined with the fate of the people who discovered the treasures of Sutton-Khoo to the world. With the fate of Basil Brown himself, unrecognized by official science, but devoted to archeology until the end of his life and participating in numerous excavations. With the fate of Peggy Piggott, who devoted her whole life to expeditions, but was never happily married. With a difficult, full of regrets and belated decisions, the life of Edith Pretty, who eventually gave the treasure found on her lands to the people of Great Britain and refused to accept the Order of the British Empire as recognition of her merits.


Pretty did not have time to see her artifacts in the museum exhibition, the war prevented. Excavations at Sutton Hoo took place in 1938-39, and the impending war is felt here in almost every scene. In the mood of the villagers, in snatches of conversations in pubs, in the background murmur of the radio. In general, The Dig / “Excavations”, like most English films about 30-40 years. of the last century, filmed with great attention to detail and surroundings. It is very textured, material and realistic. It is enough to compare the photographs of the real Basil Brown with the image created by Ralph Fiennes.


If we are already talking about the actors, then the ensemble assembled in the film really deserves high marks. Of course, Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Harry Potter) and Carey Mulligan (Pride & Prejudice, An Education, The Great Gatsby) draw attention to themselves, but the work of the same Lily James and Johnny Flynn also deserve attention. Interestingly, Carey Mulligan plays a woman 20 years older than herself in the film, and she plays quite convincingly. Traditionally, we recommend watching The Dig in English, Ralph Fiennes has an amazing pronunciation here, in addition, the difference in the manner of speech of representatives of different social groups is more pronounced in the original version.


Among other things, The Dig should be praised for its unusual editing, in which the audio track is sometimes 5-10 seconds ahead of the visual one, which creates a feeling of continuity of action and some kind of bookishness, as if this voiceover is giving comments on behalf of the author. Another plus of the picture is the shooting during the “golden hour” and the magnificent nature of Surrey and Suffolk, captured by the authors.

The Dig is a leisurely and purely English film. There are no dynamic scenes and special intrigue, we know how it will end, even at the very beginning. However, in this story there is someone to empathize with. The Dig is a pleasure to watch, and the great acting and dialogue is a real treat.

Pros: Great cast; restoring historical justice to Basil Brown; interesting installation; attention to detail, costumes and sets, traditional for British films Cons: Some adjustment of dates and facts for the sake of drama; general slowness of the narrative Conclusion:

A leisurely British movie that restores historical justice and romanticizes the work of archaeologists

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