A Field In England (15)
by Ben Wheatley
Starring Ryan Pope, Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley
From 5th July 2013
Director Ben Wheatley has caused more than a ripple with his follow up
to Kill List and Sightseers. Shot in twelve days in black and white this
dystopian and visionary film carries his usual landmark traits. Psychotic
behaviour and gratuitous violence in an ordinary environment, dark humour
and mundane small talk; here in a field, which could be anywhere in England,
or the imagination.
There are only six actors in the film and the credits do not indicate
who is playing who; it could be argued that a seventh, the landscape has
the biggest role of all adding it's own frisson of primaeval antiquity
and danger to the unwary, as only malevolent nature can be.
The action starts with a rag-taggle group thrown together by the 'chance
alchemy of circumstance'. This circumstance is the English Civil War in
1648 between Royalist Charles I, absolutist conduit of God's divine presence
on earth and the Parliamentary New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell,l
fighting for more individual religious tolerance and a more democratic
Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) escapes from the fighting through a hedgerow,
berated as a coward by his commanding officer, who dies for his trouble.
He is not an army man but has been tasked by his Master to retrieve important
papers purloined by an Irish magus of the black arts, O'Neill (Michael
Smiley), who is intent on using them to find buried treasure.
The field he is now in becomes the domain where another battle is enjoined;
that between good and evil, Christ and the Anti-Christ and that between
the human psyches of the two protagonists, as the naive Whitehead is literally
roped-in to be O'Neill's divining rod by bag man and 'King's Angel', Cutler
(Ryan Pope) Two yeoman infantry, one a simple pike-man the other a seasoned
musketeer, become the workhorses and in the process also dig a hole they
can't get out of themselves.
Magic mushrooms, 'sour but passable', are the catalyst for what follows
as the band are led onwards by the prospect of reaching an alehouse, but
Whitehead is on a religious fast and declines the meal. As the hallucinagenic
effects kick-in Whitehead remains unaffected and on meeting his adversary
and intentioned prisoner to be, O'Neill informs him that 'I have conjoured
you; it is official, sir, you are my captive'. Inside his tent, to a backdrop
of horrific screams, he uses his dark arts to excruciating effect. Broken
and trussed like a demented nag and to a maniacal soundtrack, the treasure
hunt begins, with catastrophic consequences.
How will things end?
Well, magic mushrooms will have a further part to play in a climactic
ending, after Whitehead becomes his 'own man' through self-knowledge and
a blackened presence in the celestial spheres presages doom. Elemental
forces sweep the field uprooting O'Neill's tent and scattering it's coveted
contents. As they are stacked into three distinct piles the allusion to
Dr John Dee as the Master and his association with the secretive Order
of the Rosy Cross may have been what the search was all about, not base
metal itself. Perhaps though, as Whitehead explains, 'the true treasure
is here between us, is it not friend'; for in the adversity of a fight
to the death there can be nothing else but comradeship.
Don't worry if you missed it. By the miracle of modern science and marketing
the film has been released simultaneously in the cinema, on TV via Film
4 and on DVD. It's haunting soundtrack is infectious.
Comment left by Kevin Donovan on 12th July, 2013 at 16:58
Great but it's is short for it is. You need its instead.