Thursday, 25 July 2013

A Field In England (2013)

Care to guess where it takes place?

During the English Civil War in the 17th century, the alchemist Whitehead flees from his strict master Trower and meets Cutler and two travellers, Jacob and Friend. Cutler is holding the two travellers hostage and captures Whitehead as well. He threatens the captives and uses hallucinogens on them to induce them to help him and an Irishman, O'Neill, find treasure buried in a field.

What begins as a tale of four deserters within the Civil War turns into a deranged treasure hunt, in Ben Wheatley's fourth feature film. Set in the English Civil War, he treats the viewers as if they are an observer, as if they have been suddenly transported to this point in time and uses this to not feel the need to explain everything which may seem foreign to modern audiences, therefore negating the need to take up time with unneeded explanatory dialogue.

The small cast all do a good job, but the two standouts are definitely Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley. Shearsmith does an outstanding job as the cowardly Whitehead, who tries to stand up for himself and act brave once the film turns into a deranged treasure hunt, but his face and his voice betray him, with the latter quivering and the fear clearly shown within his eyes. Smiley perfectly plays the role of O'Neill as chillingly as he can without making it too over the top. To contrast with Shearsmith, his facial expressions convey a sense of calm, but menace lurks within his voice and beneath his eyes.

"Dear God, please bring the colour back"

Wheatley does a tremendous job directing. One scene does a good job of leaving things to our imaginations, as the camera shows a tent and you hear one characters screams of terror emitting from there, sending shivers down the spine. But Wheatley ensures that this doesn't remain a grim affair, adding some well timed black humor to the proceedings, with one scene that would traditionally be played for sentiment turning, without warning, into one of the films funniest moments.

Fast-cut psychedelic sequences appear, leaving the viewer with the feeling as if they are on drugs, but they add to the overall experience. There are a number of gruesome effects, which are made all the more sickening with the inclusion of sound effects which help to convey them to the audience in a more believable manner.

One thing Wheatley especially does a good job with is the sound, with a great use of music and one standout moment where the characters whisper their dialogue in what would traditionally be a noisy landscape, making for a beautiful scene.

Ben Wheatley's latest film will frustrate those who want everything to be explained, choosing to leave the viewers to process the films true nature instead. But regardless of this, it remains a magnificently directed, hauntingly compelling, strange dream of a film.

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