Though one of the most sparing titles in recent film history, The Dig announces what proves to be one of the richest cinema experiences for some time. Based on true events and on John Preston’s 2007 novel of the same name, Simon Stone’s film creates a subtly textured account of a historical phenomenon as well as a moving reflection on the lives that are transformed by this.
Not having read the novel about the Sutton Hoo discovery of 1939, but having been aware of the British Museum’s display of its treasures, I was curious to see what the film makes of what might have seemed an esoteric set of events. The Dig opens on a long shot of a wide flat landscape, supposedly ‘Suffolk, 1939’, as in the novel. It’s actually Surrey, not that that matters. The vista evokes the similar East Anglian terrain that was the site of the amazing discovery of the ship burial that proved to be of Anglo-Saxon origins.