Field In England, A (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/07/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Ben Wheatley's latest picture is a deeply strange, beautifully shot horror with strong performances and stunning sound design work, though it's also frustratingly obtuse and significantly less accessible than the director's previous films.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ben Wheatley and written by his partner/regular collaborator Amy Jump, A Field in England is set in 1648, with the English Civil War raging just off screen. Reece Shearsmith stars as Whitehead, a scholar who escapes the battlefield and encounters three other men: Cutler (Ryan Pope), Jacob (Peter Ferdinando) and Friend (Richard Glover). Led by Cutler, the four men head off in search of a pub, but instead wind up in a mysterious field, where they are forced to hunt for a buried treasure by O'Neill (Michael Smiley), a sinister Irish alchemist.

The Good
Shearsmith and Smiley are both excellent as the apparent adversaries; Shearsmith in particular should win some sort of award for his blood-curdling screaming abilities, while Smiley is more straightforwardly chilling here than he has been in the past, though no less effective for that (there are shades of Vincent Price in The Witchfinder General, an obvious influence). There's also strong support from Glover (often very funny as the dopily deadpan Friend), Ferdinando and Pope, as well as an enjoyable single scene cameo from The Mighty Boosh's Julian Barratt in the opening sequence as a soldier trying to drag Whitehead back to the battlefield (‘Your privy parts are doomed, homunculus!’).

Wheatley's direction is extraordinary throughout, commendably using its single titular location for the entire film and using a variety of weird angles and disorienting camera effects; this comes into its own with the magic mushrooms sequences – God help anyone attempting to watch this film while similarly under the influence. In addition, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of Laurie Rose's gorgeous black and white cinematography and is further augmented by some phenomenal, powerfully intense sound design work.

The Bad
The script is often darkly funny, with both physical and verbal gags, but the structure is deliberately disorienting, with disjointed scenes often ending abruptly in total black-out. That's just one of several devices that make the film frustratingly obtuse at times and the film occasionally treads a fine line between effectively creepy what-the-fuck-is-going-on weirdness and, well, just pissing about in a field (every so often the actors freeze for no reason, as if posing for a painting).

Worth seeing?
A Field in England is a deeply strange experience that's unlike anything else you'll see all year, though your enjoyment is largely dependent on how far you're prepared to surrender to its deliberately confusing weirdness. At any rate, it's a film that's sure to repay multiple viewings and to that end, it's worth noting that it's premiering simultaneously in cinemas and on DVD, freeview and download. See it in the cinema first for the spectacular sound design though.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 12:15

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