Recommended Viewing Situation:
Lying down in a field, screaming at the black hole in the sky.
Running Time: 120 minutes.
Format: Digital, Black and White on a Red Epic and Canon EOS C300.
Director: Ben Wheatley.
Writer: Amp Jump.
Cinematographer: Laurie Rose.
Awards: London Critics Circle Film Awards, ALFS Award Nominated and more.
A Field in England (2013); you can almost taste the madness when it’s all over. This film is just more proof that the Brighton based film maker Ben Wheatley is lighting the way for a new generation of British cinema. Exquisitely penned (and co-edited) by his wife, Amy Jump, the story is simple; four English Civil War deserters (endeavouring to find a nearby pub) wind up encountering a small cult and intense psychotropic substances. By the end, you’ll understand that the film is so much more than just ‘simple’. This movie is visceral, thought-provoking and shakes you to the very core, leaving in its wake a quivering mess of still bones and uncertainty.
Lost in a monochrome digital nightmare, Wheatley’s various tableaus and jarring nods to Early Modern superstition create a wholly unique film for the modern day audience. Recalling the uncannily ‘British’ rural horrors of the 1960’s, such as The Witchfinder General (1968) and Winstanley (1976), the psychedelic aspects of the film begin take over, enlightening us to the terrifying journey its characters are forced to undertake. In the face of larger realities renaissance humanity is unable to comprehend, the stunning performances from Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover, Ryan Pope, Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley, make the torment and psychosis of their sometimes hermetic dialogue tangible in ways we had perhaps forgotten. The highly skilled cinematography of Laurie Rose enhances this, allowing every frame to offset the eye, gently disassociating the film’s reality, and yet so confidently maintaining the richness of a British civil war narrative.
Made for a meagre £300,000, in collaboration with Film4, A Field In England represents something of a progressive acceptance of today’s access to a world of unlimited information. It is the first film to be released in cinemas, on home entertainment formats, and broadcast on free-to-air television, all on the same day. This holds great cultural currency when one considers the cultism of cinemagoers pre-internet streaming. A Field In England is a film that is uncompromising and knows that its auteurs will stand by it. One might suggest that Wheatley has captured the utter eeriness that a forgotten Britain holds when juxtaposed with modernity. However, this is not some reboot of the 1980s ‘video nasty’ cultism that swept the ’00s, in fact far from it (although it might be the kind of thing you could see at an Electric Wizard concert). This film is complex, not for someone who wants an easy answer, or ride. However, it is not overshadowed by pretension in any form, the writing is witty, funny and a steady evolution of the Wheatley/Jump cinematic canon. If Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump are the future of British cinema, then I want a front row seat, because it’s going to be good.