That’s how close the Netflix movie is to the true story of the Sutton Hoo dig
Posted: Friday 29 January 2021 at 8:00 a.m.
The story of an archaeological discovery doesn’t seem like the most inspirational movie idea right away – even if it’s an excavation as famous as Sutton Hoo Simon Stone, director of the new Netflix movie The Dig, confirms: “People often see archeology as a pretty dry subject”
And Stone isn’t the only person on the project who shares this view – speaking to RadioTimescom before the film was released, star Carey Mulligan described her first reaction to hearing the film, “When my agent said roughly what it was about, I thought, “Well, I’m not really looking for a period drama and Sutton Hoo – we did that in school “It’s just a little bit bleurgh”
But both Stone and Mulligan quickly overcame those prejudices when they read Moira Buffini’s script, borrowed from John Preston’s fictionalized retelling of the excavation, “Realizing How Much Archeology has to do with the bigger and more emotional issues was a great pleasure for me, ”said Stone Mulligan added that the script really surprised her – and even did her well
But how close to the true story of Sutton Hoo is the account in the film? Read on for everything you need to know
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Well the short answer is yes – the film is largely a fact-based account of the real Sutton Hoo excavation, and most of the characters featured in the drama are based on real characters, and most of the events happened largely in line with what can be seen in the film
Sutton Hoo is largely considered England’s most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century century The events happened on the eve of World War II, and Simon Stone says the exact time period is key to the story
“The recognition of our mortality and the impermanence of our existence is exactly what makes the characters look for moments of joy, passion and togetherness,” he told RadioTimescom. “And I think that this dynamic, this paradox , the tension that we know is about to go and the passion of struggling to connect, so many people describe the summer of 1939 in Britain as a strange wilderness party before the inferno ”
While the movie is, by and large, a real story, there are a number of changes that have been made for dramatic purposes – and we’ve picked out a few of them below
Although 35-year-old Carey Mulligan plays Edith Pretty in the film, Edith was actually about 20 years older at the time of the excavation. In fact, the real Edith Pretty was actually five years older than Basil Brown when he was in the film by far the older of the two is shown
Aside from the age difference, however, other aspects of Edith as seen in the film are true to life – she was a widow with a young son and was temporarily interested in archeology
When asked how much research she did prior to filming, Mulligan told RadioTimescom that she read a biography and some of her correspondence, but the most important thing was getting the character’s spirit right
“I felt the most important thing was to focus on her core values and what she stood for and try to represent them,” she said
As portrayed in the film, Brown was an amateur archaeologist whose work at Sutton Hoo had long been overlooked after its discovery – Fiennes told RadioTimescom that the film “sets the record for Basil”
While Basil Brown’s importance to the excavation becomes clear in the film, the actual timescale of the excavation is changed for dramatic purposes
While in the film the entire 1939 excavation took place in one season, in reality it lasted much longer as of June 1938.Brown worked on the site from June to August 1938 before returning in May 1939 after some of the original finds at the Ipswich Museum and the British Museum had been informed, but before Charles Phillips and his team had arrived
As in the movie, Brown continued to dig the ship before Phillips arrived – although he was told to stop – but historical records show the two were respectful of each other, with some of the tension between them likely in the movie is added for dramatic effect
Another invention for the film (which actually goes back to John Preston’s book) involves the scene where Basil was almost buried alive after a burial mound entered him – there is no historical record to suggest this actually happened
One of the biggest changes made to the film affects the romance between Peggy Preston (Lily James) and Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) This did not happen in reality – in fact, Rory Lomax is a completely fictional character (the only one that appears in the movie)
Peggy Preston was married to Stuart Piggott, as is the case in the film, and they eventually divorced – albeit not until 1954, about 15 years after the events of the film, neither is it true that she was at the time of the excavation Newlyweds – they were actually married three years earlier in 1936, so they didn’t arrive straight from their honeymoon, as the film suggests
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World News – UK – Is The Dig on Netflix based on a true story?