Customer Review

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Curiously Weird And Mystical, 8 July 2013
This review is from: A Field In England [DVD] (DVD)
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jul 2013 16:03:44 BDT
Intersting you mention the part where Whitehead emerges from the tent bound with a leash etc - that is the part (though there are several) that actually made me laugh. I'm not sure why. The image, the music - it all seemed vaguely comical to me. Nice review.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jul 2013 17:28:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Jul 2013 17:28:59 BDT
Keith M says:
Thanks Clint - this part of the film actually gave me goosebumps!

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 11:15:36 BDT
Yes, this bit freaked me out as well - Shearsmith's face was positively diabolical and I thought they'd done somthing to his eyes!
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Keith M
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