Whatever one thinks about the quality of Ben Wheatley’s films, the sheer variety of his work is commendable in and of itself. From gangster flicks to romantic road trips and loaded social allegories, his pitch-black comedic sensibilities never seem to settle. For me, that makes him one of the most exciting filmmakers working today.
“A Field in England” might not have the most perfect execution, but its sheer audacity alone makes it an easy candidate for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.” You need not know all the details of the 17th century politics that caused the English Civil War, the conflict in which the film is set. All that matters is the knowledge that the film’s characters are deserters, wandering off the battlefield in search of something more.
Amy Jump’s script feels like a road movie as the soldiers – three Englishmen and a curious Irishman – amble through the countryside. Wheatley manages to keep the walk-and-talk interesting for at least an hour, which is no small feat. Though the film is shot in monochrome black-and-white, “A Field in England” never feels monotonous or monotone. The almost episodic misadventures of this crew recall Swedish philosopher-director Roy Andersson with its musings made around the rim of the burning pot that is modern society.
The film does take a bizarre detour towards the end that takes it into the realm of the surreal, leaving the overall effect to be akin to a mushroom morality play. “A Field in England” manages to be naturally evocative in the way Nicolas Winding Refn would like his belabored art films to be. So for purity of intent and sheer gall alone, check this one out.