Review #33 A Field in England


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Director: Ben Wheatley

Starring: Michael Smiley, Julian Barratt, and Reece Shearsmith

Running time: 90 minutes

Synopsis: Set during the English Civil War, a small group of soldiers desert battle to be captured and tortured, both physically and psychologically, by two men: O’Neil and Cutler. They are then forced to search for buried treasure in a mystical field, and after eating from a mushroom circle they quickly descend into chaos and fighting, as it becomes obvious the field contains terrifying energies.

A FIELD IN ENGLAND is unique in that it was shot in only 12 days, and is the first movie of its kind in Britain to be released both in the cinema and other formats on the same day.

The opening scene on the battlefield is dramatic and bloody, and with Civil War films few and far between, the blood and guts bears reminders to scenes from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or PLATOON. We feel the effects of battle just as much as the soldiers do- the huge explosions are followed by deafening noise that fills the cinema.

However, this is the last we see of warfare. The deserters leave on the pretence of going for a beer (who doesn’t fancy a beer after a hard day at work?), so trek through a field where they unfortunately come across the murderer of Whitehead’s boss.

The film is interspersed with some horrifying images, such as vomiting up stones and seeing and hearing a man bleed to death from a shot in the heart. We are somewhat surprisingly provided with comic relief though, with jokes about the state of Essex still fairly relevant today, and there were several one-liners that had the audience laughing out loud.

After the deserters consume the mushrooms, the film takes a weird, uncomfortable turn. We almost experience their hallucinations, with Whitehead acting as a sniffer dog for the treasure, and by the end the audience don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. The monochrome gives the field eeriness complimented by the music, with several minutes of silence between the characters but simply gongs in the background. With this silence would come the characters freezing in time like they were posing for a portrait, which added to the surrealism that is A FIELD IN ENGLAND.

A FIELD IN ENGLAND is a twisted, confusing and frankly quite frightening tale of three deserters during the Civil War. The second half of the film does lose its way as the hallucinogenic mushrooms begin to work. However, it is beautifully shot and more of a horror movie than a historical drama.

Three stars- I would not go see the sequel (I would be terrified).