Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Reece Shearsmith, Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando, Ryan Pope, Richard Glover and Michael Smiley
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
A Field in England has received much attention for it’s multi-platform release. Available in cinemas, on DVD, on Itunes and shown on TV all on the same day in the UK. It is, like the film itself, an interesting experiment and perhaps in certain quarters the future of film distribution. However this is a topic perhaps best reserved for an article and another time. Now back to the film itself…
A Field in England is a very abstract and artsy film. It is shot on a low budget, in black and white, with a small cast and in one location. The film is light on plot and heavy on atmosphere. As evidenced by Kill List and now this, Ben Wheatley is an expert at creating an uneasy atmosphere, which permeates the entire piece and his portrayals of British life. Just like Kill List, the film does not start overtly different yet slowly; surely and seamlessly tips over into a fantastical and terrifying realm before you realize it. Wheatley can unsettle you through the simplest of images and scenes, with him tonally being one of the more accomplished and assured directors working today.
The film is hauntingly shot by director of photographer, Laurie Rose. The black and white cinematography aids in the creation of the film’s intoxicating atmosphere and manages to add both grit and beauty in equal measure. Furthermore the music by Jim Williams is instrumental in setting the mood for the film. Beginning with folky tunes and evolving into a more electronic realm, it is one of the more evocative and effective original scores of the year. Wheatley’s direction, Rose’s photography and Williams’ music perfectly culminate in one sequence many are already claiming will go down in cinematic history. A shot of one character emerging from a tent with a rope wrapped around him manages to be, due to the elements mentioned above, one of the more creepier and memorable images I have ever seen in a film. However this moment, as well as the film as a whole, also succeeds in large part due to the performance of Reece Shearsmith.
Shearsmith is superb as Whitehead and goes through two distinct transformations as the character. Constantly believable and watchable, Shearsmith’s performance is one that in a dream world would get much awards recognition at the end of the year. However due to this film’s early year and unique release, as well as its abstract and horror inflicted nature, is unlikely to get many plaudits from the more snobbish awards bodies. Michael Smiley, a star in Kill List, is charismatic and cunning as O’Neil. Just as he convincingly does the best friend routine in Kill List, he is equally if not more believable as a man who may be the devil in this film. Richard Glover also gives a superb performance as a character known as Friend, perfectly portraying the earnestness and simplicity of the character.
The screenplay by Amy Jump is superb with the dialogue being memorable and dynamic, yet not at the expense of reality. The way in which the film is written, shot and performed gives it a very classic feel, almost as if it is a well-regarded play worthy of academic study. Particular lines that stick out and are sure to be quoted years from now include, “It does not surprise me that the devil is an Irishman…though I thought he’d perhaps be a little taller” and, “Don’t address me directly again or I’ll turn you into a frog”
As A Field in England heads towards its trippy third act, it perhaps confirms its place as a future favourite for drug users. As the protagonist ingests the field’s mushrooms, a stroboscopic sequence begins that is an impressive feat of editing, an assault on the senses and one of the creepiest, strangest things you’ll see in a film all year, if not ever. For a film that is at times rather slow, despite its thankfully brisk running time, this is a moment that makes you sit up and pay attention to the bizarre nature of what you are watching. The editing, done by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump, really is the true star of this film, not just for this particular standout sequence but also how throughout the film, the way in which it is cut constantly unsettles you. Certain abrupt cuts accompanied by the film’s music, scared me and made me jump in a way that no other horror film this year has, demonstrating just how much this film had sucked me into its atmosphere and how effective the editing and music was.
However despite the fantastic visuals, music, editing and performances, A Field in England is a film that I, like many, find hard to love. The film is purposefully elusive and this is at certain times inspiring and at others infuriating. It is a film that I appreciate for being truly unlike anything I have ever seen and for producing intelligent discussions and interpretations, however this approach does not always make it the easiest and most enjoyable film to watch. I can completely understand somebody labeling this a pretentious bore, although I myself cannot completely dismiss it in such a way, as I cannot deny the effect this film had on me. Yet at the same time, I cannot hail it as a masterpiece, as I also cannot deny that at times, I found the film a struggle and it didn’t quite wow me and punch me as much as I wanted it to.
Ultimately A Field in England is bold, bizarre, unique, experimental, abstract and artsy filmmaking. I appreciate it as a whole, yet only loved and enjoyed it in parts. It is a film I will never completely understand and one that I never want to completely understand. It’s a mad trip of a film that will rightfully enjoy a cult status. If you like strange movies…you owe it to yourself to take a trip into A Field in England.
Movie Parliament Rating: MINORITY GOVERNMENT (What does this mean?)
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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