Ben Wheatley presents another mindboggling piece of cinema with A Field in England, but is the historical horror as enjoyable as his former movies?
A Field in England
(UK 2013, director: Ben Wheatley)
A group of deserters during the 17th century civil war in England find themselves forced by an alchemist to find a hidden treasure.
The problem with avantgarde and experimental cinema or theatre of the absurd on the big screen is that if it’s just a pointless sequence of nonsensical scenes showing beautiful cinematography with a dark score and having people run around without a clue… then it becomes a bit pointless to continue watching. Granted, there are some funny scenes and even if most of the humor comes from bodily fluids and the use of the F-word, at least it breaks the monotony of the boring or non-existent plot and character development.
Ben Wheatley’s films were always slow burners, but they usually had some intriguing if weird characters and suspense. A Field in England desperately tries to be arthouse cinema with a bit of shooting and gore thrown in (but very little of the latter). Most people will probably have fallen asleep before the action begins or when one of the characters eats a mushroom and starts having hallucinations. If you’re suffering from epilepsy, then it’s better to turn the whole thing off anyway, as the warning at the beginning shouldn’t be taken carelessly. Unfortunately, fast changing of people’s faces, melting into each other and pointless scenes being repeated again and again only induce annoyance in the audience rather than blowing them away with visual wonder.
There are only very few scenes which make the audience keep their eyes open, as e.g. when all characters pull on a rope without knowing what’s on the end and what it all means. Now if the director would have provided more clues instead of endless blabbering about metaphysics and/or mundane topics, it wouldn’t have mattered much that there’s only one field as a setting. More has been accomplished by other directors both on and off screen. It’s one thing to play with the audience, but quite another to pull their leg or brains just to see how far one can go, especially if one has only done horror, comedy and thriller before.
The soundtrack is certainly haunting and one song will be stuck even after the credits roll. But the overacting, the extremely slow pace without any sense or reason prevents enjoyment altogether. A Field in England is an unfortunate experiment in filmmaking that can only be loved by those who look at beautiful nature images and try to find a hidden meaning or story. Maybe that’s the biggest problem. Great theatre of the absurd plays like Waiting for Godot or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are enjoyable and/or unsettling because of the great dialogue so that one doesn’t care nothing really happens. Here one tries to find a story because what’s said and done on screen doesn’t really hold the attention for long.
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