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A Field in England

August 7, 2013

A Field in England (2013)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Actors: Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Ryan Pope

A Field in England

Synopsis: Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) and fellow deserters flee a Civil War battlefield to search for an ale-house. On one of the fields they traverse, they come across the Irishman – O’Neill (Michael Smiley) – whom Whitehead had initially been sent to apprehend. O’Neill asserts his authority over the group, and diverts them into a hunt for a mysterious treasure.

Review: A little like its on-screen story of a hypnotically strong-willed man inculcating weaker souls in a mind-bending, “Waiting for Godot”-esque search for ‘something’ in a misbegotten ‘Field in England’, so director Ben Wheatley’s strange film has awed and cowered many a critic and commentator alike.

That implied criticism aside, if you can overlook some of the film’s ragtag elements (namely, that it’s nearly all style and no substance – even accepting its limited scale and budget) there are one or two kernels of flair that do justice to this cult of Wheatley. Firstly, he’s clearly thinking things through cinematographically, and tries to make his story express itself through the monochrome colouring, an inventive sound design and ingenious camerawork. It’s also an antidote to sanitised, three act narratives, by concocting its drama from the barest of threads. It’s admirable that he’s at least starting to attempt to tap into an historic idea of Englishness with his merging of a classic civil war backstory to notions of landscape and England’s rural-social past.

It’s a shame that the film descends, ultimately, too much into an indulgent fest of strobe lighting, surreal magic mushroom montages, gore, horror and nudity. But I look forward to seeing what Wheatley can do when he marries his ambition and skill to a stronger dramatic core. (August 2013)

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