This is the first UK feature film to be available simultaneously in cinemas, on freeveiw TV, on video-on-demand and on DVD and Blu-ray. Since its release I’ve watched it twice, the first time, admittedly fairly late in the evening, I didn’t really understand what was going on, the second time I’m still not totally sure but enjoyed it a great deal more. In an interview that followed the Film4 screening Ben Wheatley admitted that its not meant to be easily understood and deliberately nothing in the movie is explained, we are just parachuted in to a different time zone and left to get on with it!
This is the fourth feature film that Wheatley has directed and edited. The first in 2009 was Down Terrace this was followed by Kill List in 2011 and then came his most successful film to date the black comedy Sightseers (2012). Each of these films is different from the last and the A Field in England (2013) is no exception.
Its 1648 and we are in the midst of the English Civil War which , as every school boy will tell you, involved Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads and King Charles the First’s Cavaliers, a war which eventually lead to the curtailing of the Monarch’s power only allowing them to rule with the consent of Parliament. The first character we meet is the academic astrologer and lace maker Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) who escapes from his master and henceforth the battle. He meets up with two other deserters, Jacob (Peter Ferdinando) and Friend (the comedian Richard Glover) a man with the gift of reincarnation, a fourth man appears, Cutler (Ryan Pope) and invites the others to join him in a nearby Ale House (old fashioned parlance for a pub) and sets out across the field of the title which we notice has a wonderful crop of magic mushrooms which at one stage get cooked and eaten! Part way across this piece of English countryside our four travellers literally pull, with the aid of a rope a fifth man, the Irish alchemist O’Neil (the star of this years EIFF Michael Smiley), who suddenly appears, tortures Whitehead, then instructs him to locate the spot where some undefined buried treasure is hidden and orders the others to dig it up.
Shot in monochrome in a field in Farnham Surrey, this unique movie has been written by Amy Jump, who had an input into the scripts for both Kill List and Sightseers, whose dialog contains an imaginative use of the English language as well as a great sense of humour which runs right through its 91 minutes running time. In fact some of it is laugh out loud funny including a great line about Essex and dirty hands, and also the ‘I’m going for a shite scene’ which is hilarious in a crude sort of way and there’s Whitehead great line ‘books are easier to turn than people’. Laurie Rose’s cinematography brings the story to life with a monochrome texture that creates a distinct period feel. Also of note are the posed shots that give the impression that they are being posed for a future generation like the portraiture found in books of the Wild West. An clever and effective piece of avant-garde film making from Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley, If this humble piece has intrigued, then watch the movie: at least twice!