THE 1939 excavation of Suffolk’s Sutton Hoo is the subject of this week’s biggest release.

Based on John Preston’s 2007 novel of the same name - and directed by Simon Stone - The Dig finds Carey Mulligan in the role of Spiritualist landowner Edith Pretty.

It is on her estate that a pair of early Medieval cemeteries lay hidden.

Numerous would be treasure hunters had attempted to discover the secrets beneath Sutton Hoo prior to the excavation of 1939. Each time, the core of the burial had been missed. Each time, little of use was reported. In 1910, Colonel Frank Pretty built a mansion on the site and by 1934, on his death, it had fallen into the sole hands of his widow, Edith.

Ralph Fiennes co-stars here as Basil Brown, the working class, self-taught archaeologist hired by Edith for the princely sum of 30 shillings a week. He’s married to Monica Dolan’s po-faced May. Could there be a frisson between he and Edith? Basil certainly presents as a figure of fatherhood for Edith’s son Robert (Archie Barnes). Alas, no, it is a younger romance around whom the film increasingly rotates. That of Lily James’ Peggy Preston - aunt of John - and the fictional Rory Lomax, here played by Johnny Flynn.

As captured by Mike Eley, The Dig is a gorgeously visual piece and indebted to a time and place ideal. It is, of course, set on the eve of a war that would fracture this myth. Not that the film has any intention of doing so. Indeed, The Dig unfolds a picture of Englishness and plays with delicate traditionalism.

That said, Moira Buffini’s script consistently engages and winds a compelling narrative.

Around the carcass of a forgotten world, there are musings too of how the then present might be remembered several centuries on. Peggy suggests a history told through uncovered watch cogs and excavated china cups.

Nothing, then, but a shadow of the emotional intensity of real human life. It might be a fictional retelling of the facts but at least The Dig is more honest than that.

One more casualty of Covid, The Dig has been snapped up by Netflix and releases this week. It’s a shame that such lustrous imagery cannot be seen on bigger screens but a the wider reach offered by streaming can only be a positive.