Narrated by Academy Award-winner Brie Larson, Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us takes you on a fantastic journey to a place not many people are aware, or even know exists. Yes, we’re talking about mushrooms, which is just the visible part of an organism known as a mycelium. Most people don’t really know or care what that is, mainly because it lies below ground, and is neither a vegetable nor an animal.
But, what’s fascinating about this mysterious mycelium is that it contains a vast network of cells that share nutrients and have been forming connections over a span of billions of years. The mycelium that not many people are aware of is responsible for breaking down decaying matter and then transforming it into soil, which helps in plant growth. But, there’s so much more to mycelium which makes this documentary absolutely fascinating, especially for those who love to learn new things.
Paul Stamets (above left, with filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg) is a great choice for leading the audience into the almost alien-like world of mushrooms and is assisted nicely by vivid and intriguing time-lapse cinematography that will at times leave you speechless and other times, scratching your head, thinking if what you just saw is real.
Documentary filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg has made a delightfully quirky and wonderfully insightful work on the many amazing types of mushrooms that we share a planet with, but don’t see that often. One of the standouts of the film is Paul Stamets, a mycologist and lifelong advocate of the splendor or mycelium and the mysteries it holds beneath the surface. Stamets is a great choice for leading the audience into the almost alien-like world of mushrooms and is assisted nicely by vivid and intriguing time-lapse cinematography that will at times leave you speechless and other times, scratching your head, thinking if what you just saw is real.
Together with fellow shroom-vangelists, Michael Pollan and Eugenia Bone, and many of the world’s leading experts in mushrooms take you on a journey to different parts of the world and a whole selection of mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors. Schwartzberg often points his time-lapse camera towards various mushrooms so that you can see how they grow and devour rotting flora and fauna.
One of the mushrooms that are showcased in this amazing documentary is Lion’s Mane, which is being widely researched for its nerve-stimulating properties, and according to many experts, could someday be used to stimulate nerves for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other related diseases.
There’s something eerily magical about “the rot” as stated by Larson, that grows out of the ground and hurls tiny spores into the air. While the viewer is free to bring their own skepticism to the table when it comes to digesting various medicinal properties of mushrooms mentioned in this documentary, one can’t help but admit, mycelium really is the magic beneath us and could even (maybe) be used as a model for our own planetary survival.