|Starring||Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Julian Barratt, Richard Glover, Ryan Pope, Peter Ferdinando|
|Release||5 JUL (UK) Certificate 15|
This is the point at which further synopsis becomes fruitless. The fungal feast is the catalyst for an hour of insanity which includes diseased cocks, tent-based torture, reincarnation and some baffling tableaux vivants staged by the characters which are begging to be rendered in the style of some great 17th century painter and turned into a tumblr blog. Metaphors become increasingly nebulous, characters experience mental trips that defy description and, frankly, so do we. One sequence is so batshit crazy that you'll still feel like you're seeing it 24 hours later.
All this madness would be a waste of an audience's time and patience were it not backed up by Wheatley's confident filmmaking. A Field In England is shot in staggeringly beautiful monochrome, with achingly gorgeous close-ups and slow-motion sequences which induce wonder and terror in equal measure. Wheatley's wife Amy Jump's script crackles with expertly crafted dialogue, while James Williams' score injects menace and a sense of the period which, married with Emma Fryer's costumes (swishing capes a speciality), is never less than convincing. The performances, too, are flawless: Shearsmith gets to pull some unbelievable faces, while Smiley's own mush isn't so much loved by the camera as inappropriately fondled.
So what's it all about? It hardly matters. You can search for allegory if you like (the field itself is mysteriously calm considering it's right next door to a battlefield; Whitehead claims "whilst we live in fear of hell, we have it" - make of that what you will) but A Field In England is a sensory experience as much as anything. Original and daring, it's the 2001: A Space Odyssey of Civil War movies, destined for stoner cultdom and its own unique place in cinema. It's also very, very English: nowhere else in the world could this film be made - and you have to wonder if anyone else but Ben Wheatley could have made it. His increasingly unpredictable career has taken another surprising turn, and he's officially now one of the world's most singular directors. And on the evidence of this shroom-fuelled marvel, I bet he's also a fungi to be with.