Is it pretentious? Yes, but so what? It’s fun. In the vein of Valhalla Rising, and many David Lynch films, A Field in England is an atmosphere over narrative independent feature that will alienate anyone looking for a quick, easy to understand story. If you appreciate good old-fashioned character squabble, a five minute scene of mushroom tripping, and Michael Smiley (The Worlds End, Kill List) playing an evil magician, all set to some very delightful music, then this is the movie for you!
The film begins with four Englishmen running away during the middle of a battle into an open field where they encounter a mysterious sorcerer named O’Neil. The four men are put under a spell and driven to madness while the evil sorcerer manipulates and convinces them all to help him search for some buried treasure. Or at least, I think that’s what happened. The ambiguity of the film is a large part of its charm, and for a film that reminded me an awful lot of Valhalla Rising, I can at least say I was never bored during this. While Michael Smiley steals the show, Richard Glover (Sightseers) does a great job of playing the fool, and caries the majority of the film on his shoulders until Smiley finally arrives. The film walks a strange line of horror, comedy, drama, and experimental that both meshes and clashes with itself throughout. The movie works best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and worst when you can feel the self indulgence seeping from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List).
Whether you like his movies or not, Wheatley at least is continuing to make something different and unique with each one he directs. I can only assume from the title that the film was shot on a field in England, and the black and white cinematography is quite beautiful to look at. Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump do their best work in the editing of the film, giving it a relatively fast pace, and some epilepsy inducing editing I’m sure Gaspar Noe will revel in.
A Field in England is now available via VOD from Drafthouse Films.