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THE DIG: RALPH FIENNES as BASIL BROWN. Cr. LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021

The British never dig where they stand on February 18 at 06.00 – note

ESSÄ: This is a text in which the author contemplates a topic or work. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Archaeologists liken them to their shovels and scattered ants as they do in a vast landscape that is bathed in the sun. Above them, fighter jets chase, but continue digging as is, obsessed with the mission of uncovering the past.

The Netflix movie “The Dig”, starring Ralph Fiennes and Carrie Mulligan, is set in an archaeological site before the outbreak of World War II. The town is called Sutton Hoo and is located near Ipswich on the Suffolk coast in north-east London.

It’s a low-key movie, almost non-dramatic. The slight tension created by the character of Ralph Fenn, the silent hobbyist archaeologist Basil Brown, was imagining the Vikings as the RAF bomber whistled past toward sunset. They are red in turn, as a reminder of the fire that will soon be burning in the world.

The impending war is constantly reminded, but the locals and envoys from the British Museum who go to excavation with life and desire, are trying with all their might to suppress it. It is a poignant and often tragic human story of a nation, an empire, touching its roots while facing the threat of extinction.

In all its local simplicity, “The Dig” also points to the dual history of cinema as a state and regional cultural policy. In the 1990s, it became a trend that different regions across Europe, independently of each other and without knowing each other, took the initiative to start film production centers without the blessing of the nation-states. Film policy across Europe changed focus. The film industry is being seen as an important economic industry with great potential for creating growth and increasing employment opportunities. In the United Kingdom in particular, arguments have begun to be made to support the growth of cultural institutions in cities and regions that have been hit by an economic crisis due to the closure of traditional industry.

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Until Brexit began in earnest, major internationally oriented film directors often associated with Britain’s role in the global political arena, not least as a ruthless colonial power. But after the shift in cultural policy, local and regional stories began to focus more.

In his book Cinema and Brexit: The politics of the English popular film “The film researcher Neil Archer distinguishes between British identity and English identity, where the first concept refers to the global and global identity, and the second refers to the local and private identity;

Films of this genre are distinguished by the fact that they are often created with specific and narrow markets in mind both at home and abroad. Films that traditionally speak of British identity instead rely on universally stereotyped performances spread through popular cultural works such as the Harry Potter series or films based on events from the two World Wars, to which Christopher Nolan’s epic drama “Dunkirk” belongs to the show numbers.

Sometimes, these two seemingly hard to reconcile situations can coexist in one movie. The success of the 2012 Bond movie “Skyfall”, which was successful both internationally and domestically, can be explained by the fact that it was linked to a terrorist threat with global connotations while being addicted to the still going on. Local blacksmith work after the bombings that rocked London in 2005.

“The Dig” may look like a straightforward English movie at first glance. It is only when one takes the small archaeological debate devoid of an audience that is taking place that it opens up for further explanation.

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What archaeologists at Sutton Hoo finally found was a 24-meter-long clinker vessel that in shape resembles a boat from the Scandinavian Viking Age. Next to the boat there are many fairy things: a set of weapons – a helmet, a sword, various spears and coils – and other personal equipment such as gold belts, jewelry, and various containers for food and drink. An idea pops up: Was the head of the Vikings the one who got their last rest here?

The mystery is compounded during the strange trial that followed the discovery. According to a law in force in England in the 1930s, the crown had a certain right to recover old taxes. But the court went another way. Since the tax was publicly buried with the intention of never being collected again, it should go to the owner of the land, they said. Thus, Edith Pretty, who also initiated the dig, was given full disposal rights, which she practiced in a superb way. A few days later, she donated the entire find to the British Museum.

But what is even more impressive than the verdict itself is the evidence used. Quotations from Beowulf’s Old English literary poem, occurring in southern Scandinavia during the Migration Period, have been used to describe the nature of the discovery. The grandiose tales of what is now considered the only surviving heroic Anglo-Saxon saga revolve around how the Danes placed the body of King Skilde with valuables in a ship, which was launched into the sea, and about how the gates were erected on the memorial hill at the Beowulf Fire site, the valuables taken from the den of Beowulf were reduced. the Dragon.

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When it is a Merovingian gold coin Unfortunately on the site, all hopes for contacts with Scandinavia are fading. The Merovingians expanded their empire as early as the 5th century and conquered a region that closely corresponds to today’s France. So the person who settled in Sutton Hoo was likely a native of Anglo-Saxon, although the grave’s condition has great similarities with finds in similar graves from Vendel and Valsgärde in Uppsala. We remember once again the number of crucial contacts between England, Sweden, and the rest of Europe during the Vendelian period. Domestic becomes continental.

“The pit” is in many ways an emergency movie, but it never falls into chauvinism. When it was first introduced in early 2021, the British people had lived less than a year under convulsive lockdowns as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, while preparing for a different kind of isolation from Brexit that Boris Johnson was finally able to negotiate. The “pits” became a reminder of how close they were, after all, to the beating heart of Europe. Thus the burial at Sutton Hoo also becomes a point of reference for both dreams and mooring: a golden ship of fairy tales reminiscent of the dual citizenship accorded to every Briton: on the site and in the historic European community.

Ulrika Kärnborg, author