In the summer of 1939, as World War Two loomed bleakly on the horizon, a discovery was made beneath the earth in a quiet corner of Suffolk on the east coast of England.
It was soon discovered that some 1400 years ago, a community came together to haul a ship from the river within which they buried their king along with treasured possessions for his final journey. It was a public spectacle intended to be remembered for all time.
In the film The Dig, Ralph Fiennes brilliantly plays Basil Brown, the self-taught, working-class archaeologist who wears his immense learning lightly, and who rides his panniered bike under imposing skies, now darkening with the impending threat of war with Germany. Basil’s demeanour is quiet and unassuming, but there’s a steely defiance beneath the surface deference, an awareness of his own worth, both professionally and financially. Carey Mulligan plays Edith Pretty, a wealthy widow whose extensive land includes a series of imposing earth mounds, which she enlists Brown to excavate. “My interest in archaeology began like yours,” Edith tells the initially sceptical Basil, “when I was scarcely old enough to hold a trowel.” So begins an unlikely friendship between two very different people, both of whom believe that “it speaks, the past”.
The Dig beautifully brings to life the characters behind Sutton Hoo and gives Basil Brown the recognition he so richly deserves for his expertise in discovering one of Englands archaeological delights.