6 July 2013

A FIELD IN ENGLAND (Dir. Ben Wheatley, 2013, UK) - The Ultimate Trip


Taking its cue from films such as Stalker (1979), Culloden (1964), Winstanley (1975), Blood on Satan's Claw (1970) and Witchfinder General (1968), Ben Wheatley's A Field in England is a psychedelic folk horror shot through a trippy haze of virtuoso ideas. Given the film's multi platform release and low budget, it would be tempting to declare this is a minor work but it is in truth Wheatley's most ambitious and intellectual film to date. Whereas monochrome can be a short cut to garnering credibility, in this instance the evocative imagery transforms the rural, hostile landscape into a virtual paradigm of allegorical dreamscapes. The superfluous plot involving a bewitching tale of alchemy, class and metaphysics makes for an unconventional melange in which a group of unsavoury characters become victims of a unworldly fatalism. Wheatley has little faith in people and his films tend to unveil a lurking ugliness that usually results in characters acting out certain taboos and repressions in violent catharsis. It is a violence which is grotesquely unnerving, and in the case of A Field of England, violence is perpetrated in the context of an antagonistic male dynamic brimming with paranoia. I do feel it was wise of the distributor to give this film a multi platform release strategy since the marketing generated a strong buzz and offered audiences an event film as an alternative to the current deluge of dreadful summer blockbusters. A Field in England should be celebrated for an originality underlined by the growing talents of Mr. Wheatley. It is in the words of the tagline to Kubrick's 2001, 'the ultimate trip'.

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