The Creeping Garden Review
Science-Fiction as a genre has explored some weird areas. Fans of H.P.Lovecraft's particular brand of cosmic horror are familiar with a great menagerie of bizarre and impossible creatures from his Cthulu mythos. However, wildlife documentaries reveal that our own world is full of strange, seemingly imaginary creatures, including the blob-like things known as slime moulds. The Creeping Garden, a documentary that takes us through the microscope into the sci-fi world of these magical plant/animal/fungi, comes to Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Academy this March.
Released in 2014 the British documentary directed by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp, The Creeping Garden explores every facet of this amazing and unbelievable things. From being used in art projects to biocomputers and even in musical instruments.
I mentioned science fiction for a reason. The documentary is plainly aware of 1970's science fiction films that have greatly influenced the cinematography and the electronic score, composed by Sonic Youth's Jim O'Rourke, as well as the promotional material. The use of microphotography and timelapse in some of the cutaway shots and transition coupled with the unorthodox techno score is used to great effect in creating an otherworldly and alien atmosphere.
The film is fantastically structured with a lot of interesting people being interviewed on their work with slime moulds. We meet artists, scientists, amateur enthusiasts, roboticists and composers all with compelling stories about slime-moulds. Highlights have to be composer and computer scientist, Eduardo Rech Miranda, who uses slime moulds as biocomputers that co-write music through electromagnets attached to a grand piano. Another highlight is a film historian who talks in great detail about amateur science documentaries, in particular F.Percy Smith and his film "Magic Myxies" (1931), the first example of microphotography and time lapse in cinema, as well as the first film about slime moulds.
The Creeping Garden is a fascinating documentary about a subject that hasn't been explored before. It has a great cast of interesting and likeable subjects that contribute their own specialist knowledge on the slime mould to create a cohesive and comprehensive package. However what pushes the film over the edge of good to great is its old school science fiction aesthetics. So it is a definitely something that you have to see.
Presented in 1080p with a 2.0 Uncompressed audio on Blu-Ray the film looks fantastic. Arrow Academy have produced a high-quality product which is somewhat unsurprising for a company that is used to making these sorts of things.
There are no audio or visual glitches, and the experience of using the disc is also intuitive and easy. Menus are easily navigable and clear even when accessing them in the movie. Subtitles are easy to read and are helpful for those who are hearing impaired.
All in all a great product, for a highly original film.
The Disc comes packaged with a ton of extras that return to the stories that we have explored in the feature documentary. Those that don't, add to what has already been explored in new and exciting ways.
Audio Commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
This audio commentary is one of fun; the two filmmakers talk about all sorts of things about their film, from the strange filming schedule to the time they got drunk with a contributor. It is clear from this track that both Grabham and Sharp are fascinated by slime moulds and the people that use them. It is a director's commentary that should be a must listen for those interested in documentary filmmaking or, like me, because you wanted some behind the scenes look at a wonderfully idiosyncratic film.
Biocomputer Music (a short film by Graham on the first biocomputer music system, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mould);
Return to the Fungarium, (a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens);
Feeding Habits of Physarum, (a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime moulds);
All three of these extras return to some of the contributors we have seen in the documentary, Eduardo Rech Miranda, Andrew Adamatsky and the staff of Kew Gardens. Each is an interesting expansion on a topic with highly engaging specialists that makes these extras a perfect companion to the original documentary.
Three Cinema Iloobia short films: Milk (2009), Rotten (2012), and Paramusical Ensemble (2015);
These short films, though they seem unimportant, are pivotal in the story of The Creeping Garden. Milk and Rotten, are stylistically similar to The Creeping Garden and the disc goes on to explain that the filmmakers drew inspiration from these films to create the more stylised segments of The Creeping Garden. Paramusical Ensemble, however, sees us reunited with Eduardo Rech Miranda, who conducts another musical dialogue between violinists and those with serious paralysis.
Angela Mele's Animated Slime Moulds,
These animated slime moulds come from the film's end credits and an illustrated guide to slime moulds. These provide a full experience of the gorgeous drawings without credits and are a great way to relax after a long day watching The Creeping Garden.
US theatrical trailer