Originally published on The National Student on 14/03/17.
Step aside David Attenborough, nature documentaries just got a firm and funky kick up the proverbial arse from two oddball filmmakers with a very different set of skills.
The Creeping Garden is a bit of a hard sell; it’s an 81-minute documentary about plasmodial slime mould, and the relationships its formed not only within science, but within art, music and even robotics too. But trust us when we say it might just be one of the most fascinating (and visually stunning) films you see all year.
Not only does said mould (which grows in forest areas all over the UK) look like some sort of extra-terrestrial goop left behind by some casual alien visitors, it’s hugely intelligent in its behaviour too, always finding its way back together when its cells are separated from each other. It’s just a mound of cells, but somehow it still acts as cleverly as a lot of animals with three hundred times the brain power.
Slime mould is basically the stuff of science-fiction. It’s a real-world subject so off-the-wall and alien-like it can only be fake, despite being very much 110% real. But the film’s subject isn’t its be-all and end-all either.
Self-confessed fringe filmmakers Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp make this apparent biological phenomenon into one of the oddest bits of non-fiction filmmaking in forever, with help from some seriously swanky photography and a real earnest sense of mystery. Not only is it a film based around a unique set-up, but one with a very unique sense of style too
On the surface it looks very much to be a 70s-esque sci-fi thriller in the vein of Phase IV or Invasion of the Body Snatcher but The Creeping Garden is anything but, blending the lines between fiction and reality in some of the most awe-inspiring ways possible. Between some neat time-lapses on everything from the mould in question to the very origins of the time-lapse itself (also know as time magnification), and one of the moodiest, most carefully themed scores for a documentary in recent memory, Grabham and Sharp have crafted something really quite special.
Aside from a few talking heads popping up throughout, stylistically this is a million miles away from what you’d expect from a film based around not just nature, but such an unspoken part of that whole genus too. There’s frankly nothing waffly about it at all.
To put it simply: if you only ever see one feature-length documentary about the many uses of a mysterious scientifically questionable category of mould, make it this one. You’ll be surprised.
The Creeping Garden is out in the UK on Blu-ray now.