The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52
The 2014 documentary The Creeping Garden, directed by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp, is an intriguing and curious film.
It takes as its subject slime moulds which are found in nature, organisms which were once classified as fungi but actually seem to exist in some kind of hinterland between plant and animal and can exhibit a form of intelligence and problem solving. They may live freely as single cells, particularly when food is abundant but when it is in short supply then can congregate together and start moving and operating as effectively a single body in order to achieve their goals and to gain sustenance.
Although there are many different types of slime moulds, often in some ways to the naked eye they resemble fungi, although they differ when viewed under a microscope but because of the way they behave they actually seem to exist as some indefinable living organism; text which accompanies the film states they are “Not animal, not vegetable, not fungi – slime mould”.
Although a documentary, the presentation of the film seems nearer in a way to science fiction, with it’s cinematography, electronic music soundtrack, retro-futuristic typeface and the nature of the slime moulds bringing to mind older science fiction films that featured organic based invaders which possessed a degree of intelligence such as Phase IV, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob, possibly also the microscopic invader from outer space and scientific investigations of The Andromeda Strain.
Along which lines, the DVD/Blu-ray was released by Arrow Films, who often specialise in cult film rather than documentaries but because of the fact meets science-fiction-esque nature of The Creeping Garden, the film seems to fit in amongst their other titles.
While the book which accompanies the film is published by Alchimia Press, which is an offshoot of FAB Press, a publisher which generally produces and sells books that focus on the more transgressive, cult and midnight movie side of cinema and culture.
“Imagine if Stanley Kubrick and Douglas Trumbull were tasked with making a 1970’s educational science fiction film about the pods from Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and you’re some way to understanding The Creeping Garden.” James Marsh, Twitchfilm
Providing a further connection to this science fiction-esque aspect, there is speculation in the film that slime moulds may have arrived from outer space, which is not out of the realms of possibility as when away from food they lie dormant for extended periods – one germinated in a lab after 60 years of being dormant – meaning that they could travel through space in a manner which reflects the arrival of the extra terrestrial species in both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Andromeda Strain.
While biological illustrator Angela Mele’s work which accompanies the closing credits have an otherworldly beauty but also a certain subtle unsettling character to them and bring to mind some of the cover illustrations for 1970s science fiction book covers, which at the time often seemed to explore and express some kind of fringe and quite out there atmospheres and themes.
To be continued in Part 2…
Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
1) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #20/52a: Microscopic, Archival & Exploratory Nature Films: Minute Bodies, Secrets Of Nature & The Creeping Garden
2) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #9/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow and Phase IV
3) Week #15/52: Phase IV / a revisiting / the arrival of artifacts lost and found and curious contrasts
4) Day #149/365: Phase IV – lost celluloid flickering (return to), through to Beyond The Black Rainbow and journeys Under The Skin