During the 17th century British civil war, a group of soldiers and one self-professed coward leave the battle in search of an ale house. There is no ale house, however, instead they find O’Neil (Michael Smiley), an alchemist who is intent on finding lost treasure by any means possible.
There are some films that defy explanation; the plot is simple, but the execution is not. A Field in England is one of those films. For those expecting a foul mouthed gore fest like Sightseers or a journey into the heart of darkness like in Kill List are going to be disappointed. A Field in England is a journey into the heart of weirdness, and it is hard to tell whether director Wheatley and writer Amy Jump are just being weird for the sake of it.
The dialogue for A Field in England is fantastic, as one might expect from a film created by Wheatley and Jump. All manner of life’s questions are discussed, including fear, cowardice and the nature of death. The characters get to know one another, and themselves, through their conversations and long held beliefs are called into question. Michael Smiley – yes, Tyres from Spaced – brings the intolerant evil to the piece as the alchemist, but this evil begins to seep into everyone around him, the longer they spend inn his company.
Where things get a little Space Odyssey-esque is when the men discover some psychotropic mushrooms and begin to hallucinate the experiences they have had, and will have. It seems that each audience member will take different things from this sequence, as it is one that the audience gets to layer their own thoughts an opinions on; much like Space Odyssey. That said, it would have been easy to tell this story without throwing jarring and nauseating images at the audience, so the question is raised then, are the filmmakers being weird for the sake of being weird? Are they trying to spark conversation among the audience? If this is the case, then they have done their job well, as A Field in England is a film that needs to be discussed.
In all, A Field in England is a simple story told in a batshit crazy way. Filmed in black and white, with gorgeous visuals and dialogue, the film is a treat for the senses, until the final act when it becomes a full onslaught to the mind. That said, there is plenty here to challenge audiences, and to enjoy, so the film is a must watch for those who expect cinema to provoke and challenge, as well as entertain.