A Field In England
Ben Wheatley delivers another surreal adventure in an old age English countryside
If you’ve heard of A Field In England then you will no doubt know the historic distributing event that has been created through it’s release. For the first time in the UK a film will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, cinema and TV (Film4) creating an instant buzz for avid film goers. It’s fitting that this film should be chosen to make British film history considering the film’s setting, cast and crew.
Director Ben Wheatley shot into film after various TV projects and is now considered one of Britains current finest filmmakers. In Down Terrance (2009) we were immediately introduced to the mind of a man who could dream up surreal dark stories with a brilliant comedic touch. This was followed up with the even more sadistic Kill List (2011) and then the less sadistic Sightseers (2012) (if an odd couple killing people in the countryside is less sadistic)
A Field In England sets a group of men in a field after fleeing from the battle of a cival war. In search of an alehouse to down their sorrows they are taken by two very dangerous men. This leads the group into a dark trail of Psychedelia, unknown forces, and their own sanity.
It’s pretty much impossible for anyone to simply sum up this film without revealing too much details so just allow yourself to be enticed by that brief summary. Firstly the film is all in black and white perhaps to suit the mood of the rural English countryside but more likely an artistic impression. This is very much an experimental indulgence from Ben Wheatley who has allowed himself to mix various camera techniques in hoping to alert the audience. I viewed this through the format of Film 4 which was suitably surreal as I found myself watching the premiere of a film on TV with no adverts (huzzah!) Such is the intensity of some cuts (and one particular montage) a warning message detailing flashing images was actually placed before the film began. It’s in these scenes where you realize that whilst it signifies drug use and hallucination in the characters, this is a director having fun.
In conjunction with this cinematic experiment (again all suitable in relation to this UK distribution event) the film never failed to look beautiful. Making full use of the English countryside cinematographer Laurie Rose perfect manipulates the camera to both emphasize on the characters madness and then to show the deep tranquility of their surroundings.
The British vibe is resonated in it’s cast firstly with Reece Shearsmith playing the knowledgeable coward Whitehead. Given that he is one of the UK’s leading men in the dark comedy world it seemed to make perfect sense to team up with Ben Wheatley. Once again he fully controls his character showing his darkest of tendencies whilst also being oddly reserved. Michael Smiley joins in his third collaboration with Wheatley and with his familiar Irish accent he creates a powerful aura. There’s even space for a quick appearance from Julian Barratt. It really was quick.
Overall it’s difficult to say how much I enjoyed this considering Wheatley has created a film very much to his own liking (which is fine and much deserved) The experimental techniques explored were very well produced and I did feel always on edge as it purposefully fails to inform the viewer as to what exactly is happening. One particular prolonged scene will no doubt resonate in most people’s minds due to it’s quiet unknowing.