The Creeping Garden

The Creeping Garden ★★★★

My favorite documentaries explore subjects that I would never be interested in on my own. The stranger and more out of my comfort zone the topic, the more I am drawn to it. And so, that is how I came to watch The Creeping Garden, a British scientific documentary about various kinds of slime molds. Not only was it incredibly engrossing, the way it was filmed appealed to my love of 1970s sci-fi movies, which was an unexpected bonus. 

While this film definitely features the scientific side of slime molds by employing the knowledge of Mycologysts (people who study fungus), they also get perspectives from unlikely sources such as a composer, a computer scientist, and a robotics engineer. The way slime mold reacts to stimuli can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, and I loved seeing all the different uses for that information. For example, the composer, Eduardo Miranda, uses the mold to send electrical impulses to a piano (via a sort of MIDI interface) and "jams" along with them to create musical compositions. Some people think that science and art have to be mutually exclusive, but this film proves that beauty can be found anywhere you look for it. 


What sets this documentary apart is the unique look they picked for both the cinematography and the editing style. The color grading is a retro-looking sepia tone with pops of bright primary colors to accentuate the slime molds. It's reminiscent of films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Blob and it's obvious the directors were making a parallel to those types of films and the almost otherworldly presence of the fungus in real life. There are some absolutely gorgeous time-lapse sequences featuring our slimy friends--they move quite slowly in real-time. Seeing them undulate and ooze out on their paths is unsettling though the fractal-style vectors they travel on are mesmerizing and hypnotic. 



Speaking of the score, Jim O'Rourke (most famous for being in the band Sonic Youth) provided an incredible ambient and experimental electronic backdrop for The Creeping Garden. It sounds very analog and effects heavy, with touches of arpeggiated modular sounds. Luckily for us, Arrow Video was so kind as to include a copy of the score with their video release of the film!


I found the experts in this film to be endearing because it's great to see people enjoying their life passions. Even if your life's work is studying slime molds, you can learn a lot from their behavior and apply it to other aspects of human existence. Anyone who is into science or art should definitely take a trip to The Creeping Garden.