Director Ben Wheatley has done some pretty interesting and unique films, and A Field in England is no exception. Set sometime during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) the film follows a ragtag group of deserters, low-lives and mysterious figures that eat some magic mushrooms (literally) and trip out in a field.
The story is somewhat simple, although a bit confusing as some of the character’s actions is not explained very well, and it all gets enhanced by the trippy mushroom-eating and the introduction of hallucinatory, almost magical elements. Sometimes it feels more like a filmed play than a real movie, and the clichéd, although entertaining, characters combined with the stilted dialogue, only further the surrealism of the story. Pure black and white images signifies both ART, DIY and PUNK like nothing else these days, and A Field in England is no exception – it should be irritating as it seems calculated, but it is also difficult imagining the story in any other way.
Some might call A Field in England an empty experience, that it isn’t really about anything. There is also an uncharming manliness to it all, much throat-grabbing, bragging and bravado that seems a little misplaced considering the men’s situation. It could be about the effects of war, like shell shock or PTSD. It could be about freeing the mind from the horrors of war and quite possibly real life. It could even be about something essentially British, but it is hard for me to fathom what. Even so, it is not easily forgotten as it has some undeniably freaky qualities.
Grim, grisly and visceral Wheatley’s A Field in England is a unique experience that comes across as both seemingly amateurish and hypnotic, but ultimately it is a pretty weird film that doesn’t inspire repeated viewings.