A Field in England

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Film reviews
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Directed by Ben Wheatley. Starring Michael Smiley and Reece Shearsmith.

Usually I only review films I’ve seen at the cinema, but given A Field in England came out simultaneously at the cinema, on DVD, download and on Film 4, it seems appropriate to review it, even though I actually watched it on telly.

Set during the English Civil War, the film sees a disparate band of characters who escape from battle and set out across the titular field, ostensibly in search of a pub…although things are not that simple, especially once Michael Smiley’s alchemist/occultist shows up…

This is a curious film, though I would have to say I probably liked it better than the last Ben Wheatley film I saw, Kill List. Whereas that film was more realist, with semi-improvised dialogue, A Field in England relies on a more traditional script, although it would be a misnomer to call it a traditional kind of film.

I have to say I didn’t find it quite as disturbing as some reviewers have, though the part where a character walks out of the tent in slow motion is undeniably creepy. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the film, but there was definitely something compelling about it, and I didn’t feel like I could ever look away. It’s certainly difficult to pigeonhole, and has been compared to films like Witchfinder General, though in part this may be down to the Civil War setting. I’d actually say it was more like an occult, slightly hallucinogenic, western at times, which given it ends up with a gun battle at the end feels quite a fitting description. Certainly you could substitute the English Civil War setting for an American Civil War setting, though what you gain from the 17th Century is the religious fervour/occultism.

It is one of those films that goes a little bonkers towards the end, and a lot of it is open to interpretation. Personally I don’t feel everything needs to be explained, but this is perhaps a little too oblique for me to ever love. Great performances though from the entire cast, and especially Shearsmith, and it is definitely something out of the ordinary so it should be commended for that. Frankly it’s the best black and white English Civil War based creepy occult thriller I’ve seen in a long time…of course it’s also the only black and white, English Civil War…well, you get the idea….

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