For the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival I figured I’d try and keep some kind of a review diary covering each of the 20 or so films I’m planning to see. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.
Well, I made it to the halfway point of the NZIFF to get to a film which I can’t really say I liked. Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England is an historical, psychedelic trip on a micro-budget scale, but there just wasn’t enough meat on its bones to draw me in.
Wheatley should certainly be praised for making unique films, with his previous hitman-cum-horror flick Kill List and the road-trip serial killer romance Sightseers, both of which I enjoyed. With A Field in England however, Wheatley seems more interested in genre-bending surrealism, and less in having a strong story as a foundation on which to build his own particular style.
That said, the crisp black & white cinematography and speed-ramping do have quite a startling effect, particularly in the film’s later hallucinatory scenes. Wheatley isn’t afraid to spend time on well-crafted sequences that may not advance the plot but contribute a lot to the tone, but here it just feels like self-indulgent experimentation rather than a meaningful part of the film as a whole.
A Field in England will likely end up becoming a cult favourite, but that seems like the point. It’s hard to compare it to anything, but I don’t believe other cult films ever had that type of success as their goal. It’s something that happened after the fact, and I’m not sure Wheatley’s approach is a good one. It is worth a look, as some people are going to lock straight into its bizarre vibe, but personally I found A Field in England a rather hollow experience.