A Field in England (2013) was a unique experiment in marketing by Film4. It was also a film by Ben Wheatley. The film takes place in an unknown time in a field in England. The narrative follows a group of men who desert from their Civil War allies and find themselves imprisoned by two men who force the group to dig for treasure. As the men dig deeper, paranoia starts to creep in and the group slowly lose their minds.
It’s certainly a very different film for Ben Wheatley, but then aren’t all his films rather different? A Field of England is almost blend of Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog and well Ben Wheatley. Combining horror elements with a contemplative drama around morality, Wheatley manages to strike a balance between The Seventh Seal and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. Filming in black and white helps to set the period and the high contrast creates a gritty realistic feel to the piece. The cast works well especially the addition of Michael Smiley who gives a much needed presence to the overall film. The editing is experimental and helps to enhance the feeling of madness descending on the group.
A Seventh Field in England
However, does it work as an engaging and entertaining film? For me, not so much. There’s too much confusion, too many unexplained things that happen in the narrative that overall, it’s difficult to care. Ben Wheatley made the film he wanted to make but unfortunately the fundamentals are absent thus making the film a rather empty experience to watch.