Amid the Civil War in 17th-century England, a group of deserters flee from battle through an overgrown field. Captured by an alchemist, the men are forced to help him search to find a hidden treasure that he believes is buried in the field.
Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.
Fleeing for their lives, a small party abandon their Civil War confederates and escape through an overgrown field. Thinking only of what lay behind, they are ambushed by two dangerous men and made to search the field. Psychedelia, madness and chaotic forces slowly overtake the group as they question what treasure lies within the malignant field. Written by
A Field in England is most notable for being the first British film to be simultaneously released across every format on the same night. It has been released theatrically, pay-per-view, on DVD and on free television. It's a pretty audacious move and one that I hope works out for the film-makers as it could be a new way for left-field films to get the go-ahead to get made at all. It also reminded me of what it used to be like in the days before video recorders when I was a little kid. Whenever a movie came on TV it was a cultural event as a large percentage of the population sat down to watch it at the same time we couldn't record it to watch it later or pause it to go and make a cup of tea we simply had to make time for it at the given moment and watch. I obviously wouldn't swap the flexibility we have nowadays but there was something to be said for sharing a movie at the same time as millions of others. And in a sense, the simultaneous cinema and TV release of A Field in England brings back this scenario and for that I am quite thankful.
The film itself? Well, it's a quite difficult one to accurately judge on a single viewing, as it was pretty confusing on the whole. Director Ben Wheatley said that he wanted to transport the viewer into the world of Civil War England with little exposition to explain what was going on. He wanted us to enter a world where the characters do things that would be second nature to them without actually explaining to us why they were doing them. It's a reasonable enough idea as events in the film appear somewhat surreal as a result. Having said that, I think it's obvious that the story is bizarre regardless of this. It involves an alchemist's assistant and some soldiers fleeing a battle and meeting an ominous cavalier in a field. The latter is looking for some unspecified treasure and he uses these men to find it. Throw in some magic mushrooms to complicate matters and you have one very weird movie.
I'm not 100% certain what to make of it on one viewing. It frustrated me a bit I have to admit, as it didn't necessarily make the most of the sinister possibilities inherent in its storyline. And by the end I really wasn't all that sure what had just happened. But it did intrigue me a little and I would be interested in returning to it at some later point. The cinematography was very good at times, while the soundtrack had an interesting mix of medieval drums, folk and ambient electronica. Acting was good enough with Reece Shearsmith of The League of Gentlemen always a welcome presence, while Michael Smiley was good as the cavalier. I'm not entirely convinced by A Field in England at the minute but I feel like unique films of this type should at least be encouraged in the UK so for that reason I am going to cut it some slack.
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