It has only taken nearly 120 years but finally, finally someone has filled that too-obvious space where a feature-length documentary about moulds and the various people fascinated with them has been throughout the history of cinema. For that is what The Creeping Garden is, introducing us to the world of plasmodial slime, moulds and the scientists, artists and other observers that have an interest in the moulds, because of what they can inform us about design, engineering and various other areas where you wouldn’t necessarily connect the two. The artist filmmaker Tim Grabham and the author and critic Jasper Sharp, who co-direct here, have conspired to create a visually arresting film that utilises a number of techniques to put an audience at the centre of this world that so occupies these diverse groups.
Actually, according to archive footage in the documentary, filmmakers and amateur scientists have been experimenting with time lapse shooting and slime moulds nearly since the beginning of the moving image. And yet, mycology and the wider study of these organisms that were thought to be fungi at one time and an animal at another remains a fringe area of study. The people that populate this film have their own individual reasons for being interested in the moulds, from simple amateur enthusiasm to a fascination with the patterns nature can provide. Realising that for those who do not share this fascination it is a niche of a particularly narrow kind, Grabham and Sharp have assembled a film that uses time lapse, computer animations, archive footage and interviews to bring the viewer into this unknown world.
Alas, for this reviewer it was not a success and no amount of flashy visuals or excited commentary on the shapes and apparently intelligent behaviour of the mould could convince to engage. The much vaunted soundtrack didn’t help either, feeling like the composer, Jim O’Rourke, had fallen asleep at his desk and the result of his somnambulant noodling had simply been set to the images. It was a stultifying and sadly deeply dull affair that seemed to drag on significantly more than the running time.
However, it really is about whether you click with the film, its subject and the way it is presented. If you do, there’s no doubt fascinating diversions into how the moulds are being considered in bio-mechanical engineering and used in the production of art. You might enjoy it, and with something so selective it really is about whether it appeals to you. For those that do ‘get it’ or if you already know you’re picking this up, it’s a typically high standard Arrow release. On that basis, we’ll split the difference on the rating below.
Special Features: Featurettes / Short Films / Audio Commentary / Animated Moulds / Gallery / US Trailer / Included Artwork / Booklet (First Pressing Only) / Soundtrack CD (Excusive to Amazon)
THE CREEPING GARDEN / CERT: E / DIRECTORS: TIM GRABHAM, JASPER SHARP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW