A Field in England
Taking place over one eventful day during the English Civil War, A Field in England tells the story of four deserters who find themselves in a desperate and ill-fated hunt for treasure. It’s an unconventional and refreshingly original film that is far removed from your run-of-the-mill period flick.
For a start, unlike so many films content to merely transport characters with largely modern frames of mind into historical situations, Ben Wheatley prefers to propose how people from the 17th century of various classes might have understood the world, making this the key subject matter.
The film explores witchcraft, magic, religion and science, not as gimmicks but rather on a psychological level through a truly literary script by Amy Jump. The results are intriguing, often funny and sometimes dark and disturbing.
The way that A Field in England really deviates from the norm is through its playful experimentation with photography and editing. Shot in a clean black and white with particularly energetic and vivid camera work at the start, one might be forgiven in thinking that that’s where any stylisation will end. However, we soon discover that the imaginations of Wheatley and Jump (who share editing duties) extend much further.
The pair pushes the viewer deep into the fraught minds of the characters with surreal and psychedelic sequences, the likes of which have rarely been seen outside art films since the late 60s. They go so far with the visual trickery that it can at times be almost nauseating. Fortunately, it just about always feels necessary and a means to an end, never for mere indulgence.
Such playfulness is unusual in films of any genre these days, least of all period films and as a result it’s something that some audiences may struggle with. However, this film proves that this can service a good film rather than define it and that, while it can successfully bring up the scare factor, the effects themselves are nothing to be scared of!
Ben Wheatley is surely one of the most interesting British film-makers working at the moment and this is probably his best, most mature film so far. While at times it is reminiscent of Sean Meadow’s slightly less bleak moments or even the older films of Jim Jarmusch, A Field in England really feels like Wheatley finding his own unique and entertaining style. Highly recommended.
A Field in England is released nationwide on 5th July 2013.
Watch the trailer for A Field in England here: