A Field in England

(UK, 2013, 91 mins, DCP)
CAST Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover, Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith
PRODS Claire Jones, Andy Starke
SCR Amy Jump
CAM Laurie Rose
EDS Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
PROD DES Andy Kelly
MUS Jim Williams
PROD CO Rook Films /Film4


With four films in four years—including VIFF selections Down Terrace (09) and Kill List (11)—Ben Wheatley has established himself as one of the most invigorating and exciting filmmakers in the UK, albeit not someone we’re going to see embraced by the establishment in a hurry, given his taste for independence, black comedy and violence.

A Field in England is Wheatley’s first period film—as usual, it’s scripted by his partner, Amy Jump—and it’s a significant departure from the larky guignol of Sightseers. On the other side of the hedge, Royalists are in pitched battle with Roundheads at the height of the English Civil War. But in this meadow, cowardly scrivener and astronomer Whitehead (Shearsmith) finds himself in the company of a trio of deserters, infantrymen sick of fighting and repairing to the nearest ale-house.

A pastoral in the sense that Bosch or Breugel painted them, riddled with terror and torment but shot through with a very British, doomy, Black Adder-ish sense of humour, A Field in England soon jettisons naturalism for dirty surrealism. Whether through black magic or the effects of mushroom stew, or both, Whitehead and co. are shanghaied by a self-taught magus and treasure hunter who has them digging up bones which may turn out to be their own. Shot in black and white, with a dizzying folk-synth score, this strange and sinister, hallucinogenic 17th-century horror trip will leave you reeling.

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