Amidst all the big summer blockbusters and franchise reboots/sequels lies Ben Wheatley’s fascinating new movie A Field in England, released on all formats in an experimental distribution approach, this is certainly not one for the faint of heart. Let me just start by saying it is extremely difficult to recommend this movie in the same way I could a film like Man of Steel. You’ll know if A Field in England is for you; mind bending and far from easily accessible don’t head down to your local cinema expecting anything quite like what you’ve seen so far this summer.
Wheatley’s reputation has been growing over recent years. His 2011 movie Kill List (his second feature film) has helped him garner somewhat of a cult reputation. One of the most haunting pictures of recent years Kill List has left more than one scratching their heads. So when Wheatley released the slightly more mainstream comedy Sightseers last year some were wondering whether he was intending on staying on this path and whether his earlier, more challenging works were a thing on the past. To be quite honest I’d like to see if there’s any doubters left after their initial viewing of A Field in England.
A Field in England is a monochrome-psychedelic trip through the English civil War. A group of soldiers wander through the English fields in a hopeless quest for an Ale House in which to rest their heads and snag a drink or two. However the group’s plans are halted by the sudden appearance of O’Neil, a mystical and often incredibly sadistic Irishman played by Michael Smiley. O’Neil, alongside another man called Cutler capture the group and force them to help him find an apparent treasure buried somewhere in a field.
The group are tricked into consuming a series of hallucinogenic mushrooms which send them on a maddening odyssey into the abyss.
Beautifully filmed with some stunning cinematography what this movie stands out for is a series of unforgettably haunting images, moments on screen etching themselves into your nightmares and leaving you feeling cold long after the film has finished.
One scene in particular will keep you awake at night; two men enter a tent, screams ring out whilst two others kneel outside, one holding their ears whilst the other stares blankly into the abyss. Then from the tent emerges a man with a seemingly never ending rope wrapped around his body holding on his face the expression of a man ready for the insane asylum. The whole shot lasting just that little too long, filmed in agonising slow motion, adding to the maddening nature of the events.
It is perhaps this scene that also best describes the movie; ambiguous, maddening and often terrifying A Field in England is an incredibly ambitious piece of cinema.
The movie is a descent into madness, one which we are all invited to witness through the eye of the camera. A voyeuristic nightmare that will leave you baffled, even on repeated viewings. Is the whole film just a frightening mushroom trip? What reality are these men living in? Does the film carry with it an anti war message? All of these questions have run through my head over the last few days and yet I still remain none the wiser. Watch this for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
A Field in England is available at selected Cinemas, on Demand and DVD. You can purchase a copy of the DVD by clicking the link here: