Technically I should be calling this “All Formats Review – A Field in England”, what with Ben Wheatley’s trailblazing approach to releasing his latest film. But having seen it in the cinema I suppose I should just shut up and get on with it.
It’s taken me a few days to process what I saw in A Field in England, and I’m pretty sure I could ponder on it for a good few weeks and still not accurately tell you what it did to me. Much like Reece Shearsmith’s character in a pivotal tent scene I felt pretty violated by this film. The first 45 minutes or so creep by in a fairly laid back way, setting up plenty of intrigue as 4 English Civil War deserters search for a nearby ale house in a rural field. But then they come across an occult infused Michael Smiley and all hell breaks loose!
I’m not going to give you any more of the story than that because you honestly don’t need it. I wouldn’t call this just a film; it’s an experience. As the characters on screen fall prey to the dark arts and a particularly hallucinogenic batch of wild mushrooms, we too are bombarded with mind warping imagery and moments of surrealism that confuse, compel and freak you the f@*k out!
The performances are great, particularly the aforementioned Smiley and Shearsmith, the latter of which has been screaming out for a decent lead movie role for years now, and finally gets it. Shearsmith is committed to every ounce of his character and eschews his well known black comedy chops in many instances for moments of abject terror. That’s not to say there are no comedic moments, because there are, and they are dark….very dark. When a film’s characters speak about their “balls screaming” you know that its humour will either cause laughter or revulsion (thankfully I found it hilarious).
“Do not directly address me again, or I’ll turn you into a frog”
That Wheatley chose to make the film in black and white adds a lot to its obviously low budget. There are numerous gorgeous shots, in particular a close up spider web as Smiley walks by in the distance creates a moment of quiet loveliness, descending horror and effective symbolism. It is a bold film, a highly artistic film and yet a hugely accessible film. Wheatley is proving himself over and over again to be an exciting new force in cinema; even more so because he just seems to go out and do things. He isn’t waiting around to finance huge budget concepts, he has carved out a niche in creating original stories that he can execute how he wants, quickly and brilliantly.
If you get the chance I hugely recommend a cinema trip to see A Field in England (although not if you have photosensitive epilepsy). But if you really can’t make that big screen trip then download it, watch it On Demand or buy the Blu-ray.