A Field in England

I finally got around to watching A Field in England (2013) this weekend, and quite enjoyed it. It’s an odd, surreal film in which a motley group of deserters from the English Civil War (1640s) flees its violence only to meet stranger ends. With hallucinogens blurring the lines between reality and alchemy, it’s entertaining but not particularly narrative, a bit like a version of Dead Man (1995) set a few centuries earlier. I won’t say more about its plot as it is something better experienced than explained. I do think that the film marks a return to form for director Ben Wheatley, whose fantastic debut was the pitch black crime comedy Down Terrace (2009), featuring one of the most dysfunctional family in film history making a series of terrible decisions. The more commercial thriller Kill List (2011) followed, about contract killers on a macabre mission. It had some of the darkness but none of the comedy of Wheatley’s first film, and a rather weak dénouement despite a strong and atmospheric opening. I was disappointed by his next film Sightseers (2012), which had the promising premise of an unhinged couple combining a holiday in the countryside with an impromptu killing spree, but the comedy fell a bit flat which made it a bit of a struggle. A Field in England recaptures the effective mix of atmosphere, dark humour, and de-glamorized violence that Wheatley nailed in Down Terrace. Because of these two films I very much look forward to his next film, High Rise, based on a J.G. Ballard novel and featuring Jeremy Irons, and scheduled to come out in 2015.

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