Director: Ben Wheatley
The field in question of Ben Wheatley’s new film is quintessentially English: all chilled vegetation and smoky mist. In other words, it’s plenty bleak and disquieting without the aid of digital monochrome and arrhythmic editing. But it certainly helps, and A Field in England plays its spare setting to abstract effect, beginning as a nod to various modern war film tropes before sinking into a kind of cross between Valhalla Rising and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Michael Smiley’s heinous rogue alchemist and Reece Shearsmith’s supplicant assistant provide anchors for a film that otherwise never stays the same place and tone for long, be it the shapeshifting score, frame rate, or the axis for any given shot sequence. The script proves no less mercurial than the direction, a blend of 17th century English and vulgarly modern that can wax on venereal disease with the same eloquence it brings to philosophical and theological discussions. Meanwhile, Wheatley’s collage of moods plays upon his established gifts for hallucinogenic thriller and black comedy while adding in a sense of genuine mourning and sorrow. Minimal doesn’t get much more maximal than this. (Jake Cole)
Friday, September 13th, 9:00pm, Ryerson Theatre
Saturday, September 14th, 9:00pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3