Film Review: A Field In England

What Empire giveth with one hand, it takes away with the other. The day after, the surprise delights of What Maisie Knew, I decided to follow up Empire’s film recommendations with Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England. While I had heard of the film, and I’ve seen Wheatley’s work before with Sightseers, I didn’t really know much about A Field In England. It was very much a case of I had memories of very positive reviews but that was about it.

However, I certainly didn’t know what the plot was about. In fact, while I’m not sure what I was expecting storyline wise, a tale of deserters during the 17th Century Civil War certainly wasn’t it. I’d go as far as to say, it was so far from any inkling of a plot my brain could create that the film I met was as much of a shock as anything I have had recently.

Reece Shearsmith & Peter Ferdinando - A Field In England

The first thing that really stands out to you is the cinematic style in which the film has been shot. It’s monochrome. Which I assume is used to artificially age the piece to help you imagine that this piece is set 400 years ago and not last Wednesday, but it suffers the usual, modern, problem that comes with such a simple ageing technique; while they have attempted to age the piece through lack of colour, the clarity of modern day digital broadcast, of 1080p Blu-ray, means it still feels like last Wednesday. It’s hard to accept the dating of this film when you can see every blade of grass and pore of skin with unabridged realism.

And with the clarity of image already disconnecting you from the film, things just go from bad to worse because, at its heart, it has a bonkers story line. It’s a fairly simple story line, it’s not hard to follow, but it’s told in a very superficial, and sadly, immature way. Too frequently there are moments of dialogue that are strong, profound and worthy of note, but then they are followed up by an immature response, or a comment about male genitalia.

Michael Smiley - A Field In England

Kim Newman, a well respected critic and reviewer for Empire, described the film as: “haunting” and “intense” and yet these are two words I honestly, would attach to the film. The longer it goes on, the longer the plot descends from sensible, to strange, to downright ludicrous, the more I just grew to hate this film. I will admit that the performances of Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley as the two lead protagonists are good, and they complement each other well, but it’s like painting your bedroom walls neon pink and green and then saying that it’s OK because the cream curtains match the duvet. It’s too little to justify the madness of the rest.

And the ending is even more hallucinogenic and confusing than any other part of this film. Sadly, the original superficial but simple plot suddenly becomes a pale memory of times gone, as the final act: farts, giggles and charges into view, the film just loses all sense of basic comprehension. The problem is that the story is spoken through a “part-period” tongue, and so when the action slows and the dialogue increases I found poor Yorrick too much a troublesome act to understand upon the shores of this film. Already in a fog of haze as to the motives of the characters I had survived purely on the obviousness of the images alone and suddenly they were taken away. To end the film, I would have to listen. I would have to understand through spoken word, but I was so disinterested in the film that it was too much to ask me to start doing so late into its tale.

Reece Shearsmith - A Field In England

I am really surprised by A Field In England, because as I said, while I knew virtually nothing about it’s plot s I sat down to watch it, I honestly, have memories of people being impressed by it when it was first released. But I just cannot see how anybody could be excited by this film. Truly, I hope that I never have to watch it again, because it was so far from being entertaining or even really enjoyable, that I almost feel let down by having given up my time to view it. The only thing in my mind about it, about my preconceived ideas of it being worthy of note, is that I must be confusing it with some other film?

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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