BEN Wheatley’s A Field in England made waves when it was first announced that it would be released on multiple formats simultaneously in the UK, specifically: in cinemas, on demand, DVD/BluRay – as well as a special screening on Film4. This marks the first time that a film has ever been released in this way and offers the viewer a unique choice in how they would like to watch a new release.
Marketing tactics aside however, is the film itself actually any good?
The story is set in the midst of the English Civil War, where a scholar, a soldier and a fool are duped by a mysterious man named Cutler (through the promise of an alehouse and the covert use of hallucinogenic mushrooms) into rescuing and then serving an Irish alchemist named O’Neill, who orders them to search for a mysterious ‘treasure’ buried somewhere in a field.
Filmed in 12 days, entirely on location, on a low budget, with a six man cast, utilising old English and presented entirely in black and white, it’s an exercise in arthouse minimalism that is as much fascinating as it is frustrating. Whilst it does feature striking visuals, great performances (Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley are particular standouts) and some darkly comic moments, most viewers are likely to find the plodding pace, prolonged psychedelic sequences, heavy symbolism and lack of answers to the many mysteries that the film presents to be a thoroughly mystifying experience.
Wheatly’s trademark genre mashing, use of the occult and macabre violence in his films are all present and correct here – and yet this is by far the least accessible of his films to date and the most likely to divide audiences straight down the middle. Either way it’s guaranteed to get you talking.
Perhaps A Field In England is destined to one day become a midnight movie cult classic, but to anyone unfamiliar with (the undeniably talented) young director’s work, they are better off warming up by watching another of his films first as this is an experience that will likely leave you puzzling over what you just witnessed.
Score: 3 out of 5
A Field in England is now available at selected screens across the UK. It is also available to rent or buy on DVD/BluRay as well as being available on VOD services.