A field full of pretentious horror nonsense in not so merry England.
Movie Review A Field In England 2013
A very strange surreal, often intentionally pretentious English Civil War horror story, directed by Ben Wheatley.
A film that can be intriguing and clever, but with some obscure referencing and a wilful art-house ‘this is going to be a cult-classic’ attitude. There is a strong sense of student movie maker’s video editing to several scenes too.
Plot wise, a small band of English Civil War deserters find themselves in a field just on the other side of a hedge-row from a full scale battle, and end up captured by a strange apprentice-alchemist who forces them into joining him on a strange treasure hunt. His unseen master may or may not be Satan.
The men wander through a landscape that seems both vast and claustrophobic at the same time, and they have wild hallucogenic visions from taking magic mushrooms.
Some scenes are just peculiar. A character bursts into song for no apparent reason; characters stand still in tableau in offbeat poses signalling arbitrary chapter breaks in the action.
The oddest sequences include a struggle to drag one of the men out of a fairy ring, which looks like a one sided tug of war contest. The men seem to skip along at a fast pace through the field tied together in one scene, while pipe music plays King Of The Castle at an increasing, dizzying tempo. It was reminiscent of Bergman’s dance of Death sequence in The Seventh Seal.
In a more harrowing sequence the main villain is heard torturing a man in his tent, before the man is seen running out in slow motion, bleeding profusely. Tied back by a long rope.
Aside from its stark, are they in Hell? atmosphere, the men sometimes prat about, hitting each other with shovels, falling over in the nettles while trying to empty their bowels, etc. There are times when the film looks like Waiting For Godot meets The Seventh Seal via Monty Python.
Ultimately, it’s all so opaque as to leave the viewer irritated rather than intrigued. Pretentiousness for pretentiousness’ sake. The landscape is the real star here with the field itself coming across as strangely infinite and restrictive at the same time. Thee black and white lighting is excellent – shame about the barely coherent plot.
Uniquely, was released on TV, cinema and multi-media download simultaneously, possibly from expectations of low box office returns once its maddening obscurity puts people off paying to see it.
It was good to see input to the early scene background battle from the Sealed Knot English Civil War Re-enactment Society, including some members I know personally. The shadows of pikes clashing over the tree line was an impressive image, though those not familiar with the history might have wondered what was going on even there.