‘In The Earth’ Ending, Explained: Do Martin & Alma Find Olivia? What Is Parnag Fegg?

What happens if Nature is forced upon us? Would we like it? We have to admit that no matter how much we discover about Nature, it always feels like there’s more than what our senses can perceive. There is this conjuring harmony that we can only try to feel and admire in awe; sometimes, we run towards it, and sometimes we run away from it. “In the Earth” takes this premise to a whole new level and, in that endeavor, attempts to maintain a certain bleakness that comes with the cause. What’s striking is how awareness regarding a pandemic (a potential end-of-times event if we see it through the film’s perspective) makes “In the Earth” less bleak as we realize how close to reality it is and can be. Here’s more on it:

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Spoilers Ahead


‘In The Earth’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?

Dr. Martin Lowery and forest ranger Alma set out on a 2-day walk across the woods to find the camp of Martin’s friend, Dr. Olivia Wendle, where she has been researching ways to grow more efficient crops. On the way, Martin and Alma are ambushed by a guy named Zach, who carries out his own rituals by using them as tools to please Parnag Fegg, the “Spirit of the Woods.” After a brutal escape, when they finally manage to find Olivia, they find out that she has discovered a pattern used by trees to communicate with each other, and perhaps even with humans, via an underground neural network of roots that connects all the trees across the entire country [kind of like Eywa in James Cameron’s Avatar]. Nature is one big system. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. A weird stone, a book dating back to the early 1600s, Parnag Fegg—all these point towards something that is beyond their grasp. Whatever it is, it is “In the Earth.” Will Martin and Alma find out what it is?

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A Pandemic-Struck Planet

“In the Earth” begins by showing a planet hit by a pandemic. After Corona hit, films dealing with viruses and pandemics garnered a new audience. Needless to say, a world where humanity is facing extinction isn’t impossible to imagine anymore. We see Martin being tested when he reaches a disinfection point, the Gantalow Lodge. The third wave has already hit, and a lockdown has been called for. The way the film uses a pandemic to stress its take on Nature seems to indicate that, as humans, we always need a harsh reminder (natural or man-made) to realize the presence of Nature and its importance in our lives. And yet, the film makes it clear that it is easier to understand a virus and find a cure for it than to understand Nature. Pretty much like what we saw in Avatar, where seeing or even feeling Eywa was an overwhelming experience, here, too, we see Alma crying after she is pulled out of the mist by Weir and Olivia. She even tells them that whatever she saw looked like a human but wasn’t human. Considering the virus is natural, does it mean that Nature has taken the shape of a human and decided to take a stand against humanity, the virus being its weapon? Or, if the virus is man-made (which is more likely presently), does it mean that Nature was trying to show Alma her own true reflection [of what we, as humans, have become]? We only look like humans but have really become something inhuman. All the weird visions that Alma sees in the mist are a clear indication that Nature is trying to tell her something. Maybe it wants help, or maybe it wants to help. Olivia wanted to figure this out using the pattern she chalked out from the sounds made by the branches of the trees in the forest. Maybe a day will come when we will be able to interact with Nature.


Nature And Science

One very nice perspective that “In the Earth” has shown is how Olivia uses man-made scientific equipment to interact and perhaps even speak with Nature. Although she ultimately turns out to be as unhinged as Zach, her scientific methods do seem more plausible, be it due to our inability to understand Nature in other ways or perhaps due to it being the only way. One option follows the other. Olivia does manage to hear the sound of the branches of the trees and is even able to establish a language based on the sounds. All this wouldn’t have been possible if she had taken the “direct route” of following the book she found, “The Hammer of the Witches.” Unlike Zach, who believed that Parnag Fegg is a being who practices necromancy and alchemy, Olivia has found out that Parnag Fegg isn’t an entity; the two words translate to “sound” and light,” respectively. So she uses these to interact with the trees and gets her result. Unfortunately, she, too, loses her way at the end of the film. “In the Earth,” however, doesn’t let science appear stronger than Nature, which is basically true. There is this constant, overpowering vibe that we are inundated with, including Alma and Martin experiencing hallucinations and high-pitched sounds that bring about anxiety and vague visions. Alma experiences it again in the mist and ends up being overwhelmed and breaking down. All this seems to tell us that there is a side to Nature that remains to be understood, realized, accepted, and imbibed in order to live in harmony with it. Science will help, but after a point, it is just us and Nature. And that means we bow to it because we wouldn’t want to make an enemy of Nature.

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‘In The Earth’ Ending Explained – Do Martin And Alma Survive The Forest?

At the end of the film, we find out that Olivia, like Zach, has taken the direct route to interact with Nature. She is beyond reasoning. Thus, it is simple to say that although her methods were different from Zach’s, both were trying to contact the Spirit of the Woods. Olivia apparently dies, and her last words are, “Thank you.” She surely says this to the Spirit of the Woods, which means that she has finally seen it. The film ends with Alma offering to guide Martin out of the woods. Her voice has changed. Now, if this is just Martin having another fit of extra acoustics, we get it. But if it’s not, then she seems to have been taken over by the Spirit of the Woods. This might have been the result of the time she spent in the mist, which had a heavy impact on her mind and, from the looks of it, even her soul.

“In the Earth,” whether it was intentional or not, lets you interpret the film the way you want to. It is up to you to understand and perceive the way nature has been portrayed in the film. But one thing is for sure: it is more alive than we can imagine. And our analysis of it should not just be to utilize it but also to understand it. Only then we will be able to live at one with Nature.

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“In the Earth” is a 2021 thriller drama film directed by Ben Wheatley.

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Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata’s greatest regret is the fact that he won’t be able to watch every movie and show ever made. And when he isn’t watching a movie or a show, he is busy thinking about them and how they are made; all while taking care of his hobbies. These include the usual suspects i.e. songs, long walks, books and PC games.

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