Friday 31 March 2017

The Creeping Garden

The Creeping Garden is certainly an apt title for a documentary with an ethereal atmosphere that somehow permeates the majority of the film. The Creeping Garden is about slime. More specifically, plasmodial slime mould, that is neither a fungus nor an animal (an important distinction).

The first half of the documentary is focused on the slime itself; how it was discovered, what it is, how it functions, and so on. Between the interviews and information there is a wonderful pairing between audio and visual. Constant time-lapse close-ups of the slime are overlaid with a strange, pulsing soundtrack that makes The Creeping Garden feel like a science-fiction catastrophe waiting to happen. Several times my mind drifted to thoughts of films such as The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to a degree where I was almost expecting the documentary to subvert my expectations and turn into a creepy piece of fiction.

It didn't, of course, though this isn't a criticism. Rather, it speaks volumes on how effective the audio and visuals in The Creeping Garden truly are. I'd argue that a more appropriate comparison would be the episode 'The Deep' from The Blue Planet; the educational aspect is almost secondary to what your eyes and ears receive. Even if the subject matter does nothing for you, the strange atmosphere certainly will.

Sadly, the second half doesn't maintain this level of engagement. The focus shifts from what the slime is to the relationship that various individuals share with it, whether they be scientists, artists, or engineers. The strange atmosphere fades away, which results in an interest in the slime itself to be something of a necessity. I am fully aware that this is more of a  preference rather than objective criticism, so I can't fault The Creeping Garden for this. That being said, as the first half portrays the slime as such an abstract, almost conscious thing with striking visuals and sound, the second portion feels like something of a deflation. On the other hand, I did have to question whether the initial set-up would have sustained a full-length documentary.

Overall though, The Creeping Garden is worth seeking out; the visuals and sound are so arresting in their own right. It loses momentum, certainly, but that can't completely take away from what a strangely hypnotic experience The Creeping Garden really is. It is unlike any documentary I've seen before, and one that will confuse yet tantalise.


Lewis Hill

The Creeping Garden at CeX

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