Movie review of “The Creeping Garden”: This unhurried documentary on slime mold has a way of growing on you.
Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s uncanny documentary “The Creeping Garden” has a way of growing on you. It begins as an unhurried look at an outlandish organism that’s neither fish nor fowl nor fungus: the slime mold, which resembles an extraterrestrial colony of polyps and appears in pulsating, widescreen sports-car-yellow close-ups.
Yet out of these humble if florid beginnings the filmmakers cultivate a surprising investigation of perception, thought and life itself.
We’re introduced to the slime mold by scientists and by a charming amateur naturalist in a forest who is enthralled by these special creatures. The seemingly immobile mold has the ability to move and survive food scarcity and extreme conditions, and an experimental artist, Heather Barnett, shows how it can navigate a maze (with the incentive of oatmeal).
‘The Creeping Garden,’ a documentary directed by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp. 81 minutes. Not rated. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
It all suggests a visit with a Victorian British hobbyist who is patiently taking you through his obsession, but the blurps and squelches on the electronic score by Jim O’Rourke portend further frontiers of discovery.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- The mystery of the missing Van Gogh show: Seattle ticket holders' frustration grows
- 'East of the Mountains' review: Tom Skerritt shines as an ill man journeying home from Seattle
- How John Coltrane's Seattle recording of 'A Love Supreme' was found, thanks to 2 local saxophonists
- Better Business Bureau warns consumers about upcoming Van Gogh event in Seattle
- Judge cancels Rod Stewart's trial, sets plea deal hearing
This creeping documentary blooms with unexpected forays into early cinema techniques and the nature of the slime mold’s movements. The filmic history arises through the case of Percy Smith, who pioneered methods of time-lapse nature photography in the early 20th century. Similar camera trickery allows us to apprehend the slime mold’s very slow motion and sense of order.
A running theme of the film is how deeper understanding of the organism yields not just scientific knowledge but also glimpses of a kind of hive intelligence.
If that sounds like a leap, that’s not how the filmmakers make it feel. They tease out the depths of their subject with a sly skill, turning a curiosity of nature into a true revelation.