Dec 29, 2021
Myles Wright (Narrator)
Symbology has played an interesting role within cinema. From films like The Mummy or Indiana Jones to The Da Vinci Code, ancient symbols have been utilised in some of the most exciting plots by filmmakers. In his documentary, Ancient Symbols, filmmaker Dwayne Buckle adopts a less mainstream popcorn appeal, opting instead for an enlightening exploration of this world, if executed with a dull methodology.
Narrated by Myles Wright, Ancient Symbols hones in on some of history’s most enduring symbols (from the Yin Yang to the Christian Cross) and explores the early uses of them, stories attached to them from different cultures, and how they exist in today’s popular culture. The documentary highlights the power of symbols, often fairly simplistic designs which can take on enormous meanings that can be religious, philosophical or even transcendental, and looks at how societies were shaped around them.
Small references are made to our modern use of symbols, such as the counter-culture of the 1960s or our modern use of emojis but the film largely spends its time exploring the roots of symbols from centuries ago, revealing some incredibly fascinating theories and ideas about what symbols such as the Winged Disc or The Eye may have meant.
Ancient Symbols feels like a museum installation whereby patrons would pop on their headphones for a little while and find out more about these marks or hieroglyphs before skipping onto the next piece. Some of the archival footage is interesting but a significant proportion of it is low-res slides of a symbol in various shapes and sizes. Herein lies the crucial problem with the documentary. At just shy of the 40-minute mark, its repetitive execution of archive footage just doesn’t sustain the audience’s attention, the music feels plucked from a generic compilation album and doesn’t seem to reflect the narration or imagery in most cases, making the overall experience a monotonous lecture rather than an enthralling cinematic journey into an unknown world.
It’s an interesting film to find out when certain symbols were starting to be used as well as the stories behind them and there are moments where the stories feel spiritual or at least moving or compelling. It’s not that the documentary should be expected to compete with the aforementioned action movies, being a completely different genre, it’s just that the essay-read-aloud approach just keeps the fascinating content from ever leaping off the page.