The documentary “Fungi: Web of Life” is a collaboration between Björk and Merlin Sheldrake, exploring the fascinating world of mushrooms.
If you have a copy of biologist Merlin Sheldrake’s popular book Entangled Life, titled “Face of Fungi,” sitting untouched and unread on your bookshelf, then this documentary may seem like a more accessible option. It serves as an introductory guide to fungi, with a runtime of just 40 minutes, and is narrated by Björk. The host, Sheldrake, is a charmingly eccentric figure (think Timothée Chalamet playing a scholar from Cambridge, with a wild mop of curls). The film is being released in 3D on the large screen at London’s BFI Imax, providing an immersive experience for viewers to marvel at Steve Axford’s mesmerizing time-lapse footage of peculiar, mesmerizing, and stunning fungi.
Similar to Sheldrake’s book, the movie aims to shift our perspective on fungi and the world. Fungi played a crucial role in enabling life on Earth, with almost all trees and 90% of plants depending on them for survival. The film beautifully depicts the intricate underground networks of fungi that nourish trees, also known as the “wood wide web”. Fungi also possess incredible abilities, providing us with essential medicines and breaking down organic matter. Without them, forests would be overrun with animal remains.
Mushrooms are currently gaining popularity. The documentary showcases a laboratory in upstate New York that creates vegan leather from mushrooms, as well as a sustainable alternative to polystyrene that can be disposed of in kitchen food waste bins. In China, scientists are developing a fungus that can break down plastic and potentially aid in reducing plastic pollution. Sheldrake also explores the ancient Tarkine forest in Tasmania, carefully navigating through the fungi. However, he did not write the script for the film and fans may miss his clever use of metaphors and quotes from artists like Tom Waits. Overall, my only criticism of the film is that it falls short of the expected quirkiness of the collaboration between Sheldrake and Björk.
However, the text contains many intriguing and thought-provoking facts, making it perfect for children who are interested in nature. It piqued my interest in mycology and inspired me to pick up the unread book, Entangled Life, from my bookshelf.