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3.4 out of 5 stars
A Field In England [Blu-ray]
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2013
No, it may not be everyone's cup of mushroom tea, but more fool them. This is the most original piece of film-making I've seen for years and I found myself so utterly gripped that when the Film4 premiere finished I immediately flipped over to Film4+1 to watch the last hour again.

While unlike anything you'll have seen before, it does evoke other distinctive and ground-breaking films you probably know - lots of British cult and art-house cinema for sure (including Lindsay Anderson's If) but also influences from much further (ahem) afield. Something in the interplay of cinematography and score brings Leone/Morricone to mind in places. There are visual cues, too, that surely reference the Hollywood western while maintaining a strikingly British feel (for example in its lunatic humour and its commendable preoccupation with pubs).

And if there's a lack of coherence (hallucinogenic experiences - in reality or representation - aren't exactly renowned for strong linear narrative) then there's an aesthetic unity to this film that marks it out as something special. That unity is also strongly felt in the score, the trailers on Youtube and on the Rook Films website, and the poster and other artwork (something tells me that poster will be plastering student accommodation up and down the land very soon).

Very highly recommended if you've a taste for off-beat, British, hallucinatory, sometimes violent, sometimes dementedly funny English Civil War films set in fields. And very highly recommended if you haven't. Like mushroom soup, what harm could it possibly do?
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Let me start by saying that this movie is not for all tastes: It meanders like one of its shroom-addled characters throughout, giving little to aid the viewer in discerning the story and its mix of entheogens and occultism will soar quite happily over the heads of most people. Kill List, this is not.

If I had to compare A Field In England to anything it would be movies like El Topo or Holy Mountain: Dense, symbolism-rich movies that reward patient and repeat viewers with deeper meaning. Unlike those movies, however, AFIE is a dark and brooding experience filled with frightening imagery and paranoia. It may not be a film to watch whilst experiencing an altered state yourself.

The acting in the movie whilst not outstanding certainly bears relation to its occult horror forebears of the 60s and 70s - Films such as The Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan's Claw - hammy but not buttock-clenchingly so. I must state that Michael Smiley was fantastic, garbed in cape and hat and wielding a flintlock pistol, he exuded menace and bad-assery throughout, a perfect counterpoint to Reese Sheersmith's performance as a sniveling, cowardly scholar.

The soundtrack is fantastic, an ominous mix of traditional folk, simple drum rhythm and dark ambient that aids in the drug-fueled paranoia motif that carries the movie from start to finish.

In conclusion then. This is not a film for everyone. It is vague, challenging and mystic, and that will no doubt alienate most. But if you have a penchant for occult horror, psychedelic cinema or movies that you can peel back layer by layer then I'd reccommend A Field In England gladly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2014
I was anticipating this film eagerly since watching Wheatley's Kill List. That film blew my mind and gave me hope for the future of British horror cinema. A Field In England is a wholly different experience, similar themes persist and so does a deadpan wit but Wheatley and writer Amy Jump have created here an even less compromising masterpiece.

Beautiful stark cinematography; editing which comforts with a sedate pace at the outset only to gradually fracture into nightmare along with the soundtrack; acting which moves, terrifies, angers, amuses (Reece Shearsmith is a revelation as always, one scene in particular recalled his ability to terrify, otherwise seen in his work with the League but here taken to new heights). I can't think of an element of this film that didn't add to the overall effect.

Wheatley wears his cinematic influences on his sleeve: the credit sequence with its earthy crawl through the undergrowth and tribal drumming recalls Onibaba, Friends' folk song interlude brought The Wicker Man to mind, the menacing synths and the self-contained set felt like a nod to John Carpenter, and if you've seen it you'll probably also notice more than a slight absorbtion of the spectacle on show in 2001: A Space Odyssey. All these seem to go into a primordial (shroom) soup and emerge as something truly Jump and Wheatley's own.

Can't help but think a lot of Jump/Wheatley's influences here were also literary. I don't know if Wheatley is a fan of Peter Ackroyd but his exploration of the British landscape and its creeping influence on the psyche seems to compliment the themes of A Field In England (and also, to a degree, Kill List and Sightseers). It also doesn't surprise me to see Wheatley is adapting High Rise and is a self-confessed fan of JG. Ballard: the breakdown of the characters in this film and their gradual inhumanity under extreme circumstances brought that author to this viewers' mind.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Ben Wheatley takes a turn down the sublime and ridiculous in this twisted and darkly comic feature on the English Civil War. Offering no coherent plot strands for the first-time viewer, this is a dizzying tumble into the drug-addled, battle weary mind of war patrons fleeing and journeying across the green pastures of the English countryside on the hunt to find the beacon of solace that is an ale house. En route, they are hi-jacked by two mercenaries and forced to look for treasure that might be buried within the field.

Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley have written this feature but it is less a success of its writing than a triumph of visual technique/s. It is exquisitely and beautifully shot in monochrome. As matters unfold you become more and more convinced that you are in the presence of a virtuoso within his field (pun not intended). This is Wheatley's extravagant dalliance into the realms of the psychedelic, inspiring awe with his control of the medium. Some of the images are genuinely disturbing. In one scene, a man emerges from a tent with a rope around his neck and proceeds to walk out in slow motion. It has to be seen to be believed. It is ineffably haunting.

This is not an easy film and it will certainly not be everyone's cup of tea. It is extremely difficult to pin down and its narrative arc is not probably worth too much close analysis. If you're a David Lynch fan, and appreciate something along the surrealistic lines of Inland Empire (2006) or Blue Velvet (1986) you will surely appreciate the work done here. I imagine it is likely to be a tiring experience for everyone else though, so the characters in this film might not be the only ones looking for an ale house after proceedings fade to black.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2015
This is a truly remarkable film and whilst not a flag waving patriot I feel exceptionally proud that this field is English. It reminds me of Jonathan Miller's take on Alice in Wonderland and the off the rails journey we embark upon on both these journeys. A Field in England like Alice's adventure is fuelled by hallucinogenics and the imagery is quite beautiful and startling as one might expect, all brought down to earth by an English working class no nonsense ethic though in a nonsensical atmosphere. Well war and its aftermath is precisely that. Love it and will watch it many times again.
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Although the film has been described as a horror movie, it isn't really scary in the sense of conventional rip 'em up horror, more disturbing. The early part of the film was a bit hard to follow,as the dialogue sounds rather muffled but involves an alchemist's clerk (Whitehead) who is trying to retrieve his master's papers from a character called O'Neill, who had stolen them. Whitehead is running from a battle pursued by an angry officer who is killed by a scavenging soldier who then befriends Whitehead. They meet another couple of deserters who decide that the pub is a better place to be than a battlefield and so head off to find one. On the way they stop in a field and eat a few magic mushrooms from a fairy circle, and from this point it's difficult to tell what is 'real'. They find a carved stake in the fairy circle and pull on a rope which magically appears, causing O'Neill, who may be a demon(?) to be extracted from within the circle.

O'Neill then proceeds to dominate the group and forces them to dig for a treasure which he thinks is buried in the field, using Whitehead, who is literally at the end of his tether, as a diviner.

The film has many resonances- the time in which it is set was at a point where land itself was still the major source of power and wealth, although manufacturing was beginning to burgeon. The O'Neill character uses arms to force his will on the others, who, serf-like, dig the ground as the Levellers did against the opposition of the Cavaliers and other vested interests. Superstition was still rife in those times, so a cleric, like Whitehead, could manipulate others while not possesing physical strength.

The most sympathetic character is an Essex man who comes from the bottom of the social pyramid. Whitehead is a self admitted coward who still comes across as the most civilised of the group, compared to the selfish aggression of O'Neill.

The story certainly seems disjointed and the black and white filming provides a sense of alienation and a feeling of separateness from both conventional reality and the modern day. The film has been compared to 'Stalker' which, personally I found probably the most boring film I've ever seen - certainly, I found this film to have a lot less philosophising and more interest, but that may just be me. It's also been compared to 'Witchfinder General' which had a superbly hammy Vincent Price as a villain, and while this film is set at approximately the same time period, it's a lot stranger and has a less narrative construction. Anyway, worth a view if you prefer something a little different.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Somewhere between Shrooms and Witchfinder General, with perhaps a soupcon of The Wicker Man, lies this extremely strange movie.

Shot in bleak, grainy black and white, in a muddy field on Farnham Common (just a few miles from my home), it all looks quite magnificent. Within the first few minutes of admiring the Sealed Knot costumes though, I realised I would have to abandon all hope of anything resembling a conventional narrative. It soon becomes a delirious interplay between the motley crew of thuggish, mysterious, comical, enigmatic, greedy, foolish and very human characters. People break into song. Others just want to go down the pub. There are occult elements and some earthy scatological humour but, above all, an ethereal, dreamlike quality and a wonderfully teasing sense of fun throughout.

Certainly one of the most original films I've seen in a very long time. I'm not sure I entirely 'got it' on this first viewing and it is sure to attract some criticism for being overly enigmatic at times, but I did find it utterly compelling and want to watch it again very soon.

A high probability of becoming a future cult classic!

(Review is of the Film 4 premier screening of A Field in England on 5th July, 2013).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2015
Watching this is (I assume) not a little unlike taking too many naughty mushrooms, but rather safer. If you can stand it, probably the most extraordinary thing you'll have seen for years.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 July 2013
This latest (2013) offering from British film-maker Ben Wheatley adopted the 'multi-platform' (cinema, DVD, TV) simultaneous release approach, on the basis (presumably the researchers/accountants have done their sums correctly) that this will attract the largest viewing audience (and presumably provide the best commercial returns). Certainly, A Field In England (even more so than Wheatley's previous films) is about as far as you can get from today's multiplex fare, providing an oddly eccentric and mystical take on the (intimate) goings-on of a group of English Civil War renegades, located in (yes, you've guessed it) a field in England. More so than any of Wheatley's films to date, A Field In England is lighter on narrative and heavier (arguably too heavy) on symbolism, but what it lacks in plot coherence it (nearly) makes up for in its haunting, moody and (frequently) spectacular black-and-white look and feel (courtesy of DoP Laurie Rose).

Although the milieu is, on the surface, miles away from the modern settings of the earlier films, many of Wheatley's distinctive traits remain - a claustrophobic, intimate and wordy set-up for his battle-clad protagonists; dynamic, hand-held camerawork, slickly edited; (many) bouts of darkly humorous dialogue and (some) bursts of bloody violence; and (more so than before) opaque plot points and increased symbolism. For me, this certainly does not add up to an unqualified success. On the negative side, the lack of anything resembling a coherent plot is (for me) a significant issue. Similarly, whilst Amy Jump's script is frequently 'period authentic' and very funny, the mix of 'Olde Englishe' and more modern vernacular sometimes does not gel. On the positive side, however, Wheatley's cast is very good, particularly Reece Shearsmith's 'aristocratic assistant' Whitehead, whose talk of alchemy and astrology plays up the film's mystical feel, whilst Michael Smiley's impressive turn as O'Neill, in effect Whitehead's nemesis, provides a staring-eyed devil incarnate, encapsulating a parallel sense of menace. Jump's script is peppered with little comic gems, such as when, slurping their rudimentary lunch from a bowl, Peter Ferdinando's Jacob quips, 'There's no stoat in there, is there?'.

My overall feeling on the film is that, on balance, it probably would (ordinarily) only warrant a three star rating, but I'm inclined to four stars, first, because of the film's innovative approach (albeit typical of this film-maker) to mixing humour and its darker themes and, second, because of its stunning visual sense. A combination of these two elements is summed up in the amazing slo-mo sequence (for me, the highpoint of the film) of Whitehead emerging (following a hidden, apparent bout of torture) from a tent, being held on a leash by O'Neill, accompanied by another haunting Jim Williams musical theme - this is cinema at its most powerfully mesmerising.

In my book, Wheatley is one of the most interesting British directors around at the moment, and even if he is 'only' destined to make a series of 'cult', probably commercially modest, films (I detect senses in A Field Of England of the likes of Aguirre, Wrath of God, The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, etc), then I (for one) would say good luck to him.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2014
It is not often that films are set during the English Civil War and that alone made this film interesting to me. But I am afraid that the film was a disappointment. The narrative is not so much mysterious as incoherent. Enigmas in a plot are fine but plot jumps to simply bamboozle the audience without any kind of plot development is sheer pretension. It is fine we don't find out what happened to Whitehead in the tent as we can understand the consequences but the tug of war with the stick in the ground comes out of nowhere, has no resolution and no consequences.
Things to like
1. The setting
2. Some of the camerawork
3. The conceit that this is all taking place adjoining a field where a battle is taking place which mysteriously cannot be heard a lot of the time.
4. Some of the dialogue (when it is audible)
5. Much of the acting
6. The tent scene is genuinely unsettling.

Things to (really) dislike
1. The plot (hardly any)and incoherent.
2. The editing (all over the place).
3. Pretentious psychedelia.
4. Lack of sensible motivation of the characters. You are enroute to the nearest tavern so why do you start engaging in tugs of war, boiling mushrooms (with a pot that comes out of nowhere)and hanging out with a mad and possibly violent wizard? I say possibly violent because there is a fight scene that comes out of nowhere and it is unclear who is thumping who.
5. Bad sound work. One quarter of time you cannot hear what the characters are saying.
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