četvrtak, 1. kolovoza 2013.

Ben Wheatley - A Field In England (2013)


Alkemijsko-psihodelično-ratni vrtlog u Engleskoj 1648.


But also the film’s official trailer!

A Field in England will be the first ever UK film released
- See more at: http://blog.film4.com/new-trailer-and-poster-for-ben-wheatleys-a-field-in-england/#sthash.Yrwj1LJe.dpuf

England, 1648 AD. A small group of deserters flee from a raging battle through an overgrown field. They are captured by two men, O’Neil and Cutler. O’Neil, an alchemist, forces the group to aid him in his search to find a hidden treasure that he believes is buried in the field. Crossing a vast mushroom circle, which provides their first meal, the group quickly descend into a chaos of arguments, fighting and paranoia, and, as it becomes clear that the treasure might be something other than gold, they slowly become victim to the terrifying energies trapped inside the field.

A Field in England – review

Kill List director Ben Wheatley turns the period drama to his usual subversive ends in a grisly slice of English civil-war psychedelia

During the English civil war, Thomas Hobbes wrote in his Leviathan that without general submission to the sovereign, our natural selfishness would predominate, chaos would reign and the life of man would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". If Hobbes had seen this film, he would amend the passage to read "intensely solitary, very poor, extremely nasty, horribly brutish and rather similar to Mr Ben Wheatley's 91-minute mummery, A Field in England." Or perhaps, given that these circumstances apply despite the characters' submission to a sovereign, of sorts, he might want to delete it altogether.
Wheatley's new film is grisly and visceral, an occult, monochrome-psychedelic breakdown taking place somewhere in the West Country during the civil war. A group of deserters, starving and staggering across country in the entirely delusional hope of an "alehouse" over the next hill, fall under the sinister control of O'Neil, a necromancer and practitioner of the forbidden arts, played by Michael Smiley. O'Neil enforces his sadistic will especially on the cringing scholar Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith), who is required to help him locate a buried cache of gold somewhere in the field. Amid the carnage of war, the men's fear of death, pain and the non-existence of God creates the conditions for general hysteria that is ignited by eating the variously shaped mushrooms sprouting in the soil.
A Field in England is a film exposed to the elements, shivering with fever and discomfort. Smiley is a great O'Neil, scary and commanding, while Shearsmith's Whitehead is hilariously submissive, for all his attempts to give himself airs as a man of learning, and to pass off his temporary association with these cowardly stragglers as a mere "alchemy of circumstance". There is something unexplainably awful in the scene in which Whitehead emerges grimacing or grinning at the end of a rope, after he has been subjected to some nameless brutalisation in the privacy of O'Neil's tent, utterly affirming his subjection to the master's will. Perhaps the film's biggest formal inspiration is its period "tableaux" sequences in which the characters will hold a mysterious group pose stock-still, as if for a painting, or to demonstrate some particular aspect or metaphorical truth of their agony and mortification.
The monochrome images, created by cinematographer Laurie Rose, naturally call to mind a similar black-and-white picture, Kevin Brownlow's Winstanley (1976). O'Neil has something of Vincent Price's severity and contempt in Michael Reeves's civil war-set film, Witchfinder General (1968). Whitehead would appear to be on the royalist side, and O'Neil also, but nothing is entirely clear; the latter's Irish accent incidentally colours and complicates what we might take to be his attitude to Cromwell. A Field in England actually draws on a tradition that sees the English revolution as a period of visionary radicalism and insurrection, though this is here converted with cynicism and despair. All the digging and ranting is with something other than utopia in view. "The world is turned upside down," says one character, "and so is its pockets."
The film's writer is Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley's long-time collaborator (they edit the film together); here they are working to create a more literary screenplay, without the improv feel of their earlier works. It sometimes sounds like something by Dennis Potter or Edward Bond, and its Englishness has recognisable cousins in Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and Bruce Robinson's Withnail & I.
The central "strobe" scene, as the mushrooms kick in and the party commences, is eyeball-frazzling and cerebellum-sizzling; the film begins with an entirely serious warning about this forthcoming effect. (I was reminded of the non-serious warning to the faint-hearted that Gaspar Noé put into one of his films – and Noé is a big fan of torturing his audiences with stroboscopic flickering.) It is incredible just how freaky black-and-white visuals can be: a shimmering chequerboard anxiety attack. Shearsmith's stunned face, as he looks up at a giant black planet or sun that gradually fills his field of vision, is a picture of denatured rapture, and his performance here is equal to and better than the "gothic" characters he has created on television.

What a unique film-maker Wheatley is becoming. From the realms of contemporary social realism, crime, comedy and fear, he has moved on to lo-fi period drama, but cleverly alighted on the one period that suits his stripped-down visuals and subversive instincts perfectly. The English revolution may be the one that isn't taught in schools, but it has provided the inspiration for a punk nightmare

A Field in England - Ben Wheatley's glorious low-budget Civil War drama 

A Field in England defies easy categorisation – and that is its glory. Ben Wheatley's English Civil War drama/horror picture is a wondrously strange affair that bends genre rules.

Shooting in black and white, Wheatley eschews the pomp and formality of most costume films, instead offering a dirty, grunt's eye of the historical period he is depicting. The action here, as the title makes clear, is hyper-localised – the film is set almost entirely within a single muddy field.
Reece Shearsmith plays Whitehead, a well-spoken but cowardly figure who had been on a mission to discover the alchemist O'Neil (Michael Smiley) before running away. By a neat irony, he and some other stragglers are kidnapped by O'Neil (Michael Smiley). They are set to work in a field thought to hold a "great treasure". O'Neil thinks Whitehead's divining powers can help him find it.
The film-maker's boldest stroke is to introduce a strong psychedelic element to the storytelling. Around the rim of the field are magic mushrooms which the characters consume with predictably phantasmagoric results. We may be in Civil War England but some of the trippier sequences here rekindle memories of Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg's swinging London-set Performance.
Wheatley's macabre and funny previous film, Sightseers, was undermined by its cross-referencing of other movies and its casual sadism. Thankfully, here, he is not trying to hide behind sardonic British humour. There are rough patches. In its weaker moments, the film does resemble old Comic Strip Presents... skits on movie genres. Nonetheless, once Michael Smiley's alchemist O'Neil hoves into view, the film-making takes on a new intensity. O'Neil dresses exactly like Vincent Price's equally devilish character in Michael Reeves's Witchfinder General (1968). Influential horror historian David Pirie's description of Vincent Price as "a superb presence of inexorable vindictiveness around which the other characters move with fascinated repulsion" could equally well apply to Smiley's O'Neil.
What is most refreshing about the film is its utterly offbeat quality. This is not another British project made to formulaic guidelines. Even the bloody final battle – which seems a bit like a spaghetti Western shootout transplanted to 17th-century rural England – confounds our expectations.
Michael Smiley in Ben Wheatley's A Field in England.

A Field in England: the TV premiere - as it happened


LiveBen Wheatley's new film has been given a pioneering release: in cinemas, on DVD, and on TV all on the same day. Here's how it went down

And that's that. What a beguiling little film that was. In keeping with tradition, I'm going to slope off during the credits. I can understand why people were so desperate to see the film again now – I'm sure it'll make a lot more sense a second time around. But it'll probably take me a while to build up enough momentum to actually want to watch it again. Momentum and stocks of headache tablets.
Still, thanks so much for reading and commenting along. If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @StuHeritage. Follow me and we can all hold each other. Good luck sleeping tonight.
And this is how it ends. Everyone is dead – especially Michael Smiley, whose face gets splattered across the entire field – except for Shearsmith, who wears Smiley's hat, eats a casserole made of mushrooms and (perhaps) a human heart, puts a stone circle back together and walks off. Which probably means that he's become the devil. Which probably means that this has the exact same ending as Kill List. It's honestly quite hard to tell at this point.
It's been insinuated that the treasure they were all looking for was the sense of friendship that existed between everyone. Which makes A Field in England the most relentlessly unsettling Care Bears film ever made.
Shearsmith and Pooboy now have a gun. This will probably end in a shootout between them and Smiley. Or, because this is this film, it'll end in something I don't understand and yet simultaneously find disturbing.
Oh, wait, it is ending with a shootout.
Smiley's now killed someone else, by shooting them in the mouth, and Reese Shearsmith's face is now locked firmly into the Jack Nicholson At The End Of The Shining position. The wind must've changed.
For the record, I literally have no idea what's going on any more. That's as much about my career as this film.
Also, I'd like to make a correction. This isn't a quarter to eleven at night on Film4 film. This is a quarter to three in the morning on a minor Estonian arts channel film. In the best possible way, obviously.
And now there's a gale. And some fancy editing. And some backwards footage of a cloak flapping around. And a slowed-down gong noise. This bit, I expect, is what the epilepsy warning at the star of the film was for, because it's managed to give me a right old headache.
Now we're getting somewhere. Shearsmith is gorging himself on mushrooms, and there's a two-minute montage of mushroom close-ups. Call this a hunch, but I think that mushrooms might be quite important to the next bit.
So far, it's fair to say that not an awful lot has happened. But that might change now. They've found the treasure they were looking for and – get this – that pub they were looking for never actually existed. And Shearsmith finally looks like he's on the verge of having that psychedelic freakout that he's been promising to have for about 45 minutes.
Oh no, Baldrick's dead. His final words: "Can you get a word to my wife? Tell her I hate her. Tell her I loved her sister". Poor Baldrick. He was my favourite one.
Anyway, here's where we are with the story. Michael Smiley is probably the devil, everyone else is digging a hole and trying to kill each other, and Reese Shearsmith is hallucinating giant black suns. I'll explain why, but only after I've seen this another five or six times.
This film, penises aside, is very pretty. There's a masterclass making-of video on the Film4 website that probably explains how they made it look so good. Watch it after the film.
And there's our first penis. Civil war penises are not attractive. Who knew?
"I think I know what God is punishing us for" says Baldrick. "Everything".
At this point, I'd guess that everybody's probably forgotten about going to the pub.
Very good call casting Reese Shearsmith as a man who runs around pulling faces and vomiting blood. If there's one thing the man can do, it's chew scenery. This was the role he was born to play.
Well, that was weird.
Reese Shearsmith is staggering out of the tent, now that he's finished screaming. He's attached to a rope and gurning like an Aphex Twin mask. It's profoundly unsettling. Hey Twitter, you were right.
Screaming. Bloodshed. Baldrick chanting. And - wait - I'd been warned about this bit on Twitter.
Oh, hang on. It's gone black. And there's screaming. This cannot be good.
Michael Smiley's playing the old 'You didn't capture me, because I captured you' trick on the Reese Shearsmith character. Which, if you're interested, doesn't really work if you try it on a policeman if he catches you breaking into a house. I heard.
Also, I can't help thinking that Kasabian are probably watching this and making notes in a book called 'What We're Going To Wear On Our 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour'. God, I hope that's not the case.
Putting this on at quarter to eleven at night on Film4 seems like a brilliant move now that the film's a third of the way through. It is a very quarter to eleven at night on Film4 film.
It seems as if A Field In England isn't about four blokes going to the pub any more. They've just found Michael Smiley – who may or may not be invisible – in a mushroom field, and beaten the crap out of him. And now the Essex boy is staring at his hand. He's probably going to peel it like an orange. I've heard that mushrooms make people do that.
The characters so far: a milquetoast, an Essex boy, a man who poos and then swears about pooing and a mysterious fourth. And they're all going to the pub. Throw in a fence joke and you've basically got The World's End.
"What line of work are you in, squire?" "Buttons" "I'm going to have a shit".
There are some long, long dialogue scenes here – Peter Bradshaw's comparisons to Dennis Potter are starting to make sense.
So, the story so far: four Civil War deserters are walking through a field, swearing and arguing and looking for a pub. After all the noise and squall of the beginning, this is settling into a more low-key groove. Which probably means that things are going to get very nasty very quickly. And strobey, if the warning before the film started was any indication.
Ben Wheatley's good at sound, isn't he? The scariest thing about Kill List was probably all the rumbles and screams, and this seems just as inventive so far.
This is shaping up to be a grubby 90 minutes. Everyone's covered in mud, and screaming, and crawling through bushes. Three minutes and we've already seen two dead bodies. I'm going to enjoy this, if I don't wet myself first.
OK, A Field In England is about to begin. This is exciting. Don't forget to turn your mobile phones off. But keep your laptops on, so that you can follow the liveblog. Yes, look, I know it's counterintuitive. Shh.
Hush also appears to be playing the theme-tune to the TV show Cheaters over its end credits. This endears me to it enormously.
Film4's lead-in to A Field in England, incidentally, is 2009's Hush – a film that pretty much appears to exclusively consist of swearwords and screaming. My nerves are already shredded, so god knows what I'll be like by midnight.
TWITTER REACTION UPDATE: Twitter is now almost unilaterally going "Why the hell are you liveblogging a film, you idiot?" In other news, I might close Twitter for a bit.
I’ve been trying to gauge the reaction to the film on Twitter today. So far, the overwhelming response from those who've seen it has been positive. Lots of people have called it ‘a trip’, which I think means ‘I probably don’t have a clue what I’ve just seen’. Others have said that they need to see it again, which I think means 'I definitely don't have a clue what I've just seen'. Which means that, if I've got this right, I'll have a full-blown nervous breakdown at roughly 11:30pm. Keep your eyes peeled for that.
Stuart Heritage here. Welcome to a very special Guardian liveblog. In three quarters of an hour, Ben Wheatley’s new movie A Field in England will premiere on Film4, on the same day that it’s released in cinemas and on-demand. But pioneering distribution models be damned – I’m liveblogging the film because it’s a new Ben Wheatley film, and I like Ben Wheatley.
Down Terrace and Sightseers were both brilliant, and just thinking about Kill List makes me want to burst into tears and run to my mum. Even Wheatley’s Go Compare adverts are good, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say. The reviews for A Field in England seem to suggest that Wheatley's purple patch continues unabated; Peter Bradshaw called it ‘grisly and visceral’ and ‘a punk nightmare’ in his four star review. Combined with this alternative trailer that went online last week, I couldn’t be more excited about the next couple of hours.
That said, some of my colleagues have implied that this might not be the easiest film to follow. “Poor Stuart” said Catherine Shoard during this week’s Guardian Film Show when the topic of this liveblog came up. So, just to forewarn you, while this liveblog might end up being seen as the vanguard of film appreciation in the digital age, it could just as easily turn into a stark warning about the thundering pointlessness of liveblogging afilm. Either way, it’ll probably be fun. Or scary. Or a complete and total waste of everybody’s resources. Definitely one of those three things.
The comments are open below, so do feel free to chime in with your observations on the film, and I’ll be back here at 10:45 when it all starts happening.

Hello and welcome to our live blog of Ben Wheatley's new film A Field in England, which is making waves not only for its trippy civil war story but also for its pioneering release strategy. Not only is it going into cinemas today, but it's also showing on TV tonight (starting at 10.45pm on the Film4 channel).
Stuart Heritage will be here later on to keep you company during the broadcast, but meanwhile, here's a few things to help you get prepared. Watch the trailer here, read Peter Bradshaw's four-star review here, Phelim O'Neill's article about the thinking behind the simultaneous cinema/TV release here, and The Guide's interview with the man himself, Ben Wheatley, here.

Pulling The Veil From The Mysteries: Ben Wheatley Talks A Field In England
Mat Colegate 

Ahead of its cross-format premiere this evening, Ben Wheatley talks to the Quietus about his psychedelic English Civil War movie, A Field In England

The English countryside has been the inspiration to dreamers, poets, shamans and charlatans for centuries. You can draw a ley line between all those inspired and maddened by its beauty. From the apocalyptic rantings of David Tibet to Vaughan William's Lark Ascending. Hacker Farm's noisy re-appropriations of rural detritus to poor John Clare's lunatic ramble toward his long-dead sweetheart. It is the seat of the English visionary tradition, and there has always been something about its untamed landscape that makes a suitable backdrop for stories that tap into the dormant, darker parts of the subconscious. Following this long line is the latest film from the director of Sightseers and Kill List, Ben Wheatley.
A Field In England tells the story of a group of soldiers (played by Reece Shearsmith and Julian Barratt amongst others) deserting from the tumult of the English Civil War and captured by an alchemist (Michael Smiley) who forces them into a hunt for a buried treasure. This simple set-up becomes the backdrop for one of the most powerfully hallucinatory film experiences since the days of Roeg and Jodorowsky. A Field In England is a head movie in the hardest sense, as it harnesses all the power at its disposal to baffle, blind and batter the audience into an altered state.
What was it that made you want to set a film during the English Civil War?
Ben Wheatley: I'd been making short films that had just been people in rooms and I wanted to do something on a bigger scale, so I thought I'd do a documentary about battle re-enactment. My secret agenda being to get to work with large amounts of people. I got in touch with the Sealed Knot who are the English Civil War re-enactment lot and started going to their events. It had always been in the back of my head to make something about the Civil War. It just seemed like such an interesting period because it's the beginning of the Western world. They'd got rid of a king and parliament's powers were increased and magic was turning into science. It's a very messy period. But the amount of thought going on in the country at that point - everybody radicalised and marching and starving and not knowing what's going on - was fantastic.
And you use that period as the basis for what is basically a trip movie. What made you want to combine the two things?
BW: Just reading about it. We read about the magic men going about blowing ground-up mushroom dust into people's faces and people having experiences. That was really interesting. And we read about mushroom circles and how they were considered to be portals to fairy worlds and how if you went through one it was very difficult to escape. How time moves at different speeds either side of the mushroom circle and that you need four men and a rope to pull you out...
Oh, that's where that bit came from!
BW: It just jumps off the page. You're going “Fuck! That's brilliant!” But also on a very basic level we wanted to make a midnight movie. Those kind of movies that haven't been made for donkeys years, like Eraserhead, where you end up going, “This is wilfully strange”. It's a trip movie, basically. In the same way that people flogged 2001 as one. It's a sensory experience as much as it is a story. That was important.
Certainly the trippiness felt very familiar to me. It doesn't have that cosmic, expansive 2001 vibe. It has a grainy, detailed feel that I associate with English magic mushrooms. I mean, I wouldn't want to speculate on how “experienced” you are...
BW: [laughs] Yeah, your perception is so fucked on mushrooms. We found in the editing of the trip sequence - where it's cross-cutting between two similar images – that it makes your brain kind of split in half as you try to process the two images at the same time. That felt to me like an experience I've had on mushrooms. It had that intensity. You don't necessarily see lots of surreal things, but your perception is fucked. I think that's what comes across. And of course it's a device in the film for bringing across lots of different ideas and putting them on top of each other as the character of Whitehead [Shearsmith] works out who's who and what's what. It's a remix of the movie you've been seeing, but at the same time it's an audio and visual assault on you. I don't know why more cinema isn't like that.

The only film I can think of recently that's gone for that intensity has been Valhalla Rising.
BW: Enter The Void as well.
It managed to keep a very tight storyline going throughout. Were you ever worried about the trippiness of the film getting in the way of the story's clarity?
BW: Not really. It's the first film that we've done that's not got any improvisation in it. It's got pretty much one line of improvisation and other than that everything is exactly as scripted. That comes from two things. One is that we shot it fast, 12 days, so there's not a lot of time for pissing about. And the other thing is it's very difficult for actors to improvise in period dialogue. As soon as you get them to go off the script it just turns into normal English. We had nightmares over the dialogue and I'm sure we got tons of it wrong. One of the characters uses the word 'envelope' which we found out doesn't get into the dictionary until about three years after the Civil War. You're like, “Oh, they didn't have envelopes before that?” But of course, there was no postal service. We figured that these words are sometimes in usage before they're in the dictionary.
There'll be one history professor pushing his glasses up his nose and harrumphing...
BW: Oh, there'll be loads. It is difficult. We've done due diligence, but we're not historians.
There's a real pleasure in language in the film as well. I felt like I'd waited most of my life to hear Julian Barrett use the word 'homunculus'...
BW: It's a beautiful script. It's slightly embarrassing, but I was still coming to understand it as I was making the film. There are bits of the script almost talking to each other as the film goes on. Amy [Jump, scriptwriter] did a brilliant job on it.
There's a lot more in the film about class than I was expecting. You've got educated characters and less educated characters but all of them are still quite ignorant. They don't really know what's going on.
BW: I really like the bit when Whitehead's talking to Friend [Richard Glover] and giving him his CV and putting on a weird posh accent that he didn't have before. That is what the film is trying to get at; that someone like O'Neill [Smiley] could have come out of that field and run the country. In that period there were a lot of these characters. Cromwell wasn't the person most expected to rise up through the ranks. It was all a bit random what happened. I like the idea of anarchic and creative characters thinking and having plans. If you've got a bit of tangential thought you can move very quickly through society, but having that kind of idea is very hard. If you look at the movies I've done they tend to revolve around those types of characters. Sightseers is like that as well.
It's a fantastic sounding film. It's rare enough in a movie that someone turns to the camera and starts singing a song, but mixing that with the heavy synth drones...
BW: There are a couple of things going on with it. The general thinking was that it should go from a traditional type of music to more psychedelic - “We'll start here and we'll end up here” - and that on the way it should go through Morricone, because the film basically becomes a cowboy movie. The main theme to me is like Jim Williams [composer] channelling Morricone, and there's versions of that tune that go all the way through the film. I'd found the lyrics to 'Ballou My Boy', which is the song that Richard Glover sings to camera, and then Jim had found some orchestration to it, but he said it was very complicated and so he rewrote it to make it sound a little less hey-nonny-nonny. We wanted the first part of the film to be soundtracked by music the characters could have played if they'd had an instrument. Stuff they they could just about knock out and sing. Until comparatively recently, in the last couple of hundred years, you'd have to make your own entertainment. That's what that singing is. He's the radio basically. He sings his song and the rest of them are like...
The other character's reactions to him are very interesting.
BW: They've heard that song a lot by that point.
Not to give too much away, but just after Whitehead's experience in the tent there's that almost Popol Vuh-esque keyboard drone...
BW: That's 'Chernobyl' by Blanck Mass, the only bit of licensed music in the film. I was editing every night in the hotel and we were looking at this long take going, “Fuck, this is fantastic, but what music can go with it?” Andy Stark, the producer, is a big music fan and he put that track on over the footage and we just went [gasps sharply] and had to go and pursue them. The budget was so small that one of the agreements I'd made was that I wouldn't put any licensed music on it because we couldn't afford to, but Blanck Mass were really good about it.
There's a milieu which the film references. That Weird English Cinema that includes films like Witchfinder General...
BW: Or Winstanley, or Culloden. I'd seen Winstanley, which is a great film, but not an easy one to reference. Witchfinder General not so much, to be honest. I think the thing that maybe carries through is the cowboy-ness of it. Witchfinder... is basically a Western. But we found that that snuck up on us. It wasn't planned. Once we saw the actors lurching about in the hats with the guns we realised that these characters would have been the same guys that would have had to run off to America to escape persecution. I can't deny that there are references in the movies, but it's not like I put it in there to see if people can spot it. It's more that it just comes out in the general wash. Then you see it in the edit and you think “ah...”
The use of tableau to break the acts up was very interesting.
BW: That was always in the script. It came out of looking at the pamphlets that were going around in the period and the very flat pictorial representation in them. The idea developed out of that. We thought about having drawings to represent those moments, but Amy said we should get them to pose on camera. What we wanted it to look like was a language of film-making that might have existed before film. That's why we used a lot of weird camera lenses as well.
Giving it a kind of deliberately uneven quality?
BW: Yeah, and the fast cutting as well. We were trying to sit a little outside of the language of normal cinema.

You shot the film very quickly – 12 days. Are you a fan of that pulp ideal? Of getting the ideas across hard and fast?
BW: If I could have got away with no one knowing how fast it was shot I would have been happy. It was blurted out by someone right at the beginning of the whole process. It's not an issue. Sometimes you film stuff and it's too quick and you don't have time to do it properly, but not this. We never felt that we were up against it, or that we needed more time. Part of the reality of being allowed to do something so out there is that you have to bring it in at a certain budget.
Making something at speed can give it a compellingly urgent quality though.

BW: Shock Corridor was shot in 12 days. A lot of those movies were quick. The Roger Corman films were made really quickly. I don't think it makes much difference. There can be big sets and a lot of lamp tweaking but it doesn't help to make the basic movies. If someone said that some of the Bergman films were shot in 12 days you wouldn't be surprised, would you? It doesn't matter. I think it's a shame that it got out, but at the same time all the stuff we're doing at the moment for the DVD release - the 'making of' stuff - is about just that. It's going, “Look, you can make a movie, it's not as complicated as you might think.” It's hard to make the film good, but the mysteries of it are what we're trying to pull the veil away from.

Ben Wheatley 'overwhelmed' with reaction to A Field In England

Scene from A Field in England 
  A Field in England has Michael Smiley and Reece Shearsmith among its cast
Director Ben Wheatley has said he is "overwhelmed" with the reaction to his latest film, A Field in England, the first UK film to be released simultaneously on all formats.
Wheatley's "psychedelic trip", set during the English Civil War has taken £27,000 at the box office since Friday, according to Rentrak.
The 91-minute film also premiered on DVD, TV and through video-on-demand.
Some 367,000 viewers have since tuned in to watch it on Film 4.
As part of its simultaneous release the historical thriller, starring Michael Smiley as an alchemist who forces a group of deserters to help him find hidden treasure amid a field of magic mushrooms, was released by Picturehouse Entertainment in 17 UK cinemas.
Over the weekend, it took £21,399 in box office receipts - an average of £1,259 per cinema, adding another £6,601 to its tally from screenings on Monday and Tuesday.
It has also been Film 4's bestselling title on its On Demand service, while 2,380 copies of the film have been sold on DVD.
Its release on several platforms on the same day was dubbed "an interesting experiment" by distributors.
Ben Wheatley Wheatley wrote and edited the film with his wife Amy Jump
"I think it's a very specific way of doing it," Wheatley told the BBC News website on Wednesday.
"I think you need to be financed by a channel for it to work. Without the channel behind you in the way that Four were, it would be hard to do."
The film, developed in partnership with Film 4's experimental division, Film 4.0 and the BFI, was made on a modest budget of £300,000.
Wheatley, whose previous films include Sightseers, Kill List and Down Terrace, said the release model was an appropriate way to maximise audience figures for a film made on such a small budget.
"For this film, it makes sense. I'm really happy that people in Wales [where there were no screenings] could see it.
'Long game'
"In the grand scheme of things, they would have had to wait to buy it on Blu Ray, but that would have been a couple of months down the line," he said, adding at that point, "the message is diluted".
Sue Bruce-Smith, Film 4's head of commercial and brand strategy said she was "thrilled" that audiences "embraced" the film with such enthusiasm.
"We really believe we need to challenge traditional release patterns, particularly when it comes to independent films, to get as large an audience as possible to the work of bold and brilliant filmmakers like Ben," she said.
"The fantastic results across all platforms prove that there is a different way of doing things which benefits audiences, filmmakers and industry alike."
However there is an argument such a concentrated release might not maintain interest in the long run - one which Wheatley disagrees with.
"I think the exposure to the general audience in that moment is almost worth the risk," he said.
"Cinema is a long game. It takes a long time to seep into the consciousness of the country. The culture is so massive and a cinema release - even if it's quite a big one - is still a tiny, tiny proportion of those people."
Despite the film being available to the public free of charge on Film 4, five of the 17 cinemas it was screened in - London, Brighton and Edinburgh - sold out, which is down to the cinema offering a "different experience" to watching it on TV, Wheatley suggested.
"The images are designed to be seen on a big screen," he said.

"To see something where you've got something at the periphery of your vision is a totally different experience to seeing an image that has got your front room around most of the edge of it."

In the very beginning…

Producer Claire Jones on finding the perfect field even before funding had been put in place.
Ben Wheatley has wanted to make an English Civil War film, ever since I’ve known him, so the idea was always lurking. But although it had been talked about for years, we’d all been incredibly busy on other films, so we hadn’t done much in the way of development. Jump forward to 2012, and we really wanted to do a film that was quick to put together, where Ben and Amy Jump could be as creative and free as they possibly could, before getting into another bigger budget film [the forthcoming Freakshift].
Ben and our DoP Laurie Rose had come across a re-enactment village a few years ago and went down to shoot a test. The footage they shot was stunning. Menacing and eerie, shot in black and white – it was that footage that got everyone excited in really pushing forward the film, which at that time was provisionally entitled Gant.
Laurie Rose films some hedgerow action
Initially Ben was toying with shooting the film with all the film crew in civil war dress and living as they would have done through the duration of the shoot – a re-enactment film unit, as it were. Ben would then be able to shoot wherever he liked – 360 degree shooting, without the North Face jackets getting in the way. A great and crazy idea, but in the end practical considerations meant that the idea was parked.
Right from the start, the field itself was the first thing we had to look into, before any conversations with financiers. The biggest concern Ben had was that we needed grass that would be long enough for people to hide in, and we had to think about this way before we got involved with Film4. That was the first step: can we find a field, in September, in England, which has long enough grass that actors would be able to hide in – does that actually exist?
Shooting in the long grass
So we did a few recces even before we joined forces with any financiers, just to see whether it was possible, because there’s no point in going merrily off to get finance if it then turns out you can’t do what you need to do. We knew we could get this wonderful cast, and we knew we could make this film on this specific budget, but the unknown question was: can we actually shoot?
As it turned out, lots of fields around the country had oats or wheat being grown, which looked to the casual eye like long grass – but they’re not, they’re crops. And it was very important to the script that we had a field that had no crops, due to the famines at the time the script was set.
We were working this all out around Easter, and we had to find out what the situation would be in September. We spoke to quite a few farmers and there appeared to be no guarantee that the grass would be at the required length at that time of year. Heavy rain, or not enough rain, could mean that the grass would be too short, too long, or just flattened. Also of course, just because you visit a farm that had long enough grass now didn’t mean by the time we came to shoot the farmers wouldn’t have cut it.
Long grass
We ended up recceing various places, talking to the farmers, trying to predict what the grass would be like. Obviously the farmers were able to guide us, but of course English weather is so unpredictable, so there was an element of chance. We saw a lot of fields where you’d have electricity pylons or new buildings in view and we were of course trying to avoid any encroachment of modern life into our field. The location was one of the biggest challenges, but in the end we found what seemed like the perfect field.
Of course with any locations there are always compromises. We had two airports quite close to us – and, rather annoyingly – had numerous scenes ruined by Chinooks flying over. Apart from these unwanted machines, our field ended up being the ideal location for the film.

Influences: video feature

“It’s black and white and it’s a period film, so it’s things like Culloden and Peter Watkins movies and general sixties stuff… and then I was thinking about psychedelia and The Trip and those kinds of student movies that don’t get made any more, where people take loads of drugs and go insane.” Ben Wheatley on the melting pot of influences stirred into A Field In England.
Influences video transcript >


Culloden is a low budget docudrama that aired on the BBC in 1964. Directed by Peter Watkins, the film details events during the 1746 Battle of Culloden.
Read about Watkins’ motivations and thoughts behind the film >
Peter Watkins is widely considered one of the founding fathers of docudrama. A director known for experimentation, Watkins’ work is often characterised by dark critiques of mass media and modern society.
Learn more about Peter Watkins’ body of work on IMDB >
The Trip (1967) tells the story of a TV ad director who experiments with mind-altering drugs on the streets of Los Angeles while going through a troublesome divorce. Written by a young Jack Nicholson, The Trip has achieved cult status as an example of early Vietnam-era Hollywood psychedelia.
Watch the trailer for The Trip on YouTube >
Onibaba is iconic director Kineto Shindo’s 1964 Japanese horror drama, set in a 14th century Japan torn apart by civil war.
Watch clips of Onibaba and read an extensive synopsis on the Criterion site  >
The League of Gentlemen were a macabre comedy quartet, featuring Reece Shearsmith, most famous for their surreal BBC series of the same name.
Watch clips from The League of Gentlemen on the BBC site >
An edit suite is the place where all of the recorded material (rushes) are digitally imported and cut together into the final film with any visual effects, grading and additional audio added. An edit suite can be anything from a single laptop to a large network of computers and equipment.
Read more about edit suites in our technical glossary >

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