Directed by Ben Wheatley
There is no dross like left-field dross (no pun intended). When something so decidedly non-mainstream fails, it’s not just bad. It’s offensively bad, and every time you just want to write a long and vicious essay decrying how postmodernism spoils good art. Is A Field In England good art? I don’t know, but “I find pages easier to turn than people” is a line to kill for. The film has lots of good lines.
Circles, too. And squares. A Field In England is a classic far-out experience that sees its characters consume mushrooms in hallucinogenic quantities, die twice and have a thing called ‘pissing disease’. If your stomach is too small, stay away. This is black-and-white, old-school horror, psychedelia, Waiting For Godot, and lovely 17th-century styled folk music all rolled into one and messing with your brain. A trip in every sense of the word.
The English Civil War is in full swing, but the film is set in a field separated from the battle by a long hedge. Four men desert and decide to go to an ale house. The ale house is pretty much Kafka’s castle in that it’s out there somewhere yet getting to it isn’t really on the cards. Then an Irishman called O’Neill appears (“It does not surprise me that the Devil is an Irishman, but I thought that perhaps he would be a little taller”) who assumes control over the group and commands them to dig out some kind of treasure buried somewhere in the field. This is the case where you just have to hang on and look straight: because it’s quite engaging in its own absurd way.
And you have to love the characters. There’s a refined man called Whitehead (good name) who is all about science and books. There’s one who seems to have every disease but plague. There’s one without a brain (no, not literally). The chemistry between the actors is amazing. Hell, the whole thing is amazing. It’s highly allegorical and it’s open to interpretation. And as the psychedelic fog disappears and your frail ideas slowly drift away, only one thing stands as a clear fact: Ben Wheatley is a major talent.