‘A Field in England’: an original, mind-blowing trip set in 1648
A four-star movie review of “A Field in England,” shot on a shoestring in striking black and white and set in England during its 17th-century civil war. It’s a kind of fever dream with madness, violence and drug-induced visions afflicting its characters in unexpected ways.
Special to The Seattle Times
‘A Field in England,’ with Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Ryan Pope, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover. Directed by Ben Wheatley, from a screenplay by Amy Jump. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains gory violence, language, nudity). Friday, Saturday and Thursday at SIFF Cinema at the Film Center; Sunday through Wednesday at the Uptown.
Take five men — rough, shaggy fellows.
Situate them in a vast field of tall, undulating grass.
Dial the time back to 1648, to the English Civil War when Roundheads and Cavaliers battled with flintlock weapons and sharpened pikes.
Mix in large quantities of hallucinogenic mushrooms and behold the phantasmagorical imagery they engender.
Prepare to be mesmerized by “A Field in England,” a movie of singular originality.
Shot on a shoestring in striking black and white by British filmmaker Ben Wheatley, “Field” is a total immersion in another time and another world. It’s tremendously strange yet always accessible, the visuals minimal yet rich, flawlessly evoking the bygone era with authentic costumes and dialogue.
Amy Jump wrote the terrific screenplay, and her writing renders the archaic parlance of the times easily understandable to modern ears.
The men in the field are Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith), an educated innocent and something of a coward; army deserters Friend (Richard Glover), a somewhat simple-minded soul, and Jacob (Peter Ferdinando), a peevish warrior; O’Neill (Michael Smiley), a man of great cruelty and greater greed; and Cutler (Ryan Pope), O’Neill’s loyal flunky.
The picture opens amid gun smoke, panic and drums, with Whitehead, Friend and Jacob fleeing the fighting. Strangers at first, they make their way across the field, seeking escape and, in the case of Friend, beer.
They soon fall into the clutches of Cutler and O’Neill, seekers of treasure they believe to be buried in the field. O’Neill, previously acquainted with Whitehead, believes he knows the location of the loot.
Subjecting poor Whitehead to unspeakable though unseen (by the audience anyway) tortures, eliciting ungodly shrieks from the hapless victim, the secret of the stash is pried forth. Or is it?
As the picture unfolds, it turns into a kind of fever dream, with madness, violence and drug-induced visions afflicting the characters and leading to an ending that’s unexpected and powerfully strange.
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org