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The Dig

We have been looking at the importance of context and contextualization for the preacher.

I was reminded of this when watching the Netflix original film The Dig.

My wife and I enjoyed it so much that we watched it twice, one evening after the other.

It tells the story of the unlikely “team” of Mrs Pretty living in the grand house with mysterious ancient mounds in her extensive grounds, and Basil Brown, a local self-taught excavator. Brown, who had left school aged twelve, was an unqualified but highly educated man who was at home in the world of books and the down to earth world of digging up the past.

The setting of the film is the excavation of a unique archaeological find in Suffolk that took place during the phony war that preceded World War 2.

At first it was assumed that this was a Viking settlement, but it soon became plain, as Basil Brown had anticipated, that it was in fact an Anglo-Saxon site from the 6th Century.

Contextualization was a really important concept for those making the film.

They were concerned to get their facts right about what actually happened and catch the flavour of the place where it happened.

I come from Suffolk and I love its history, countryside, its people and the rollercoaster ride of supporting its football team Ipswich Town. I am also proud of the significance of the Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, and the astonishing hoard of treasure found there 80 years ago.

This beautiful gently moving film captures the story and the county very well.

I was impressed when I heard the vocal coach for the film speak on the radio recently. He spoke about ‘Suffolkating’ the script. By this he meant that some phrases used by the locals needed to be rephrased and the actors, especially Ralph Fiennes who played Basil Brown, had to learn how to speak ‘Suffolk’. The Suffolk accent is hard to get right. Often actors sound like a mixture of something west of Swindon with a bit of pirate thrown in for good measure. It sounds awful.

There is a distinctive musicality to the accent. The presenters on Radio 4 were told to push their lips forward as if they were blowing a kiss and try to say “now”.

If you get it right it sounds like you are saying “no,” with a hard sounding “N”.

Try it.

The coach also said that those using the Suffolk accent tended to have a developed sense of timing, with pauses in all the right places. Often the pause says more than the words, “Don’t it now?”

We invent words and phrases like “Cor ta heng”, when we are surprised by something.

We also manage to elongate the sound of some words like ‘film’ turning it into ‘fiillim!'

I was delighted to see how well Ralph Fiennes did in capturing the tone and mood of the Suffolk accent. It’s what locals call “respect,” or “doing right by us.”

The quirky rich and famous have long made Suffolk their playground, especially the idyllic Southwold, Walberswick, Thorpness and Aldeburgh.

Natives have an unusual relationship with these visitors.

Suffolk people do not suffer fools gladly and are not impressed by those who are pretentious, particularly when they look down at others.

Preachers need to speak in the language of their hearers.

We must ask, “How can I learn to speak so that people will hear, understand and feel the impact of what I say?”

When people are heard, not patronized or belittled, and valued as important, they will listen.

It’s worth the effort.

This photo file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic licence.

For a review of the film The Dig see:

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