Hello and Hallo-welcome to another review penned by your beloved bloggers, Andy and Lilly! Apologies for the radio silence, but we’re back with a new review, and are getting ourselves on schedule to return weekly with new offerings!
This week’s film offering: A Field in England
Andy: Despite our fondness for the weird, neither of us is really into the truly surreal. I wouldn’t watch a David Lynch film unless you hold a gun to my head. So it was with some trepidation we embarked upon this, an explicitly surreal historical horror about alchemy, repetition, cowardice and friendship.
Filmed on an ultralow budget with one location, the plot, such as it is, involves four apparent deserters from a English Civil War battle, who decide to walk to a local alehouse supposedly on the other side of the field they find themselves in. Of course, some of these people are not what they seem.
Lilly: Shot in black and white and featuring P.O.V. camera work and ‘drug trip’ techniques, it was definitely a mixture of the familiar and the ‘what the hell was that?’ It was both interesting character study and indulgent art-house shots and close ups of Reece Shearsmith’s emoting face. There were times where I just self-reflected on my movie choice. Maybe choosing something because an actor or two (Julian Barratt!) I like is in it isn’t a good idea. Was I being punished with existential crisis suffering Civil War cowards? Is that what was happening? Was the idiot even a coward, or just an idiot? I don’t. Know.
Andy: Yeah, it’s a strange one. The whole thing screams “unreliable narrator”, especially after they sit and eat a load of mushrooms.
Lilly: There are a few ways to read this film, and all of them are grabbed from bits and pieces of evidence rubbed together to hopefully make something stick. Everything from ‘They’re all dead’ to ‘Whitehead (Shearsmith) is a disguise for the master he claims to serve’ float around idly amongst shots and sounds and images that beat the atmosphere out to the sound of the drum track that plays. Then there are the tableaus that give you a moment to go ‘wait…what?’ before the story takes up again. Those were…interesting? I didn’t know what effect was wanted, but they just took me out of the story and gave me a minute to think about whether I was bothered to go get a drink or not.
Andy: The trouble is that the film is both more and less than the sum of its parts. It reaches grandly for all of these different themes and ideas and horror but there’s no substance to hang it on. It’s very difficult to follow what precisely is ‘going on’, at least in a meta sense, so everything just sort of hangs there in space. It’s like a stage play with half the scenes missing, and everything is either too brief or too long. I imagine it’s someone’s favourite film, but there wasn’t enough to it. I guess the term is that it didn’t ‘resonate’ with me.
I suppose the only interesting theme I dug out of it was a kind of Sisyphean disdain for anybody actually achieving anything. No ale is going to be drunk, no treasure is going to be found, and no hole is ever going to be deep enough. Heck, the field itself seems endless. There is no end. Which in itself is a pretty scary idea, but not enough to keep me engaged for 90 minutes.
Lilly: I was intrigued up until the moment I realized that I was never going to get answers for anything I was trying to piece together, and then I was Sisyphus, trying in vain to get some sort of idea of what was happening. Was it a trip? Was it PTSD? Was it some sort of witchcraft, the whole thing? Who knows. For me, it’s a ‘maybe?’ recommendation–it’s not for everyone (it wasn’t really for me) but it does have some interesting ideas, some good acting, and a good use of one massive field in England.
Andy: Yeah, it’s a very tentative maybe from me, which probably means a no. Some people may like it as a surrealist nightmare. I am not one of those people.