A Field in England, Apocalyptic Fiction, Ben Wheatley, Cinema, Cinema Reviews, entertainment, Film Reviews, Films, magic mushrooms, Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska, Movie Reviews, Park Chan-Wook, Seth Rogen, Stoker, This is the End
Other than the full blog reviews of Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Pacific Rim I’ve seen quite a few films on the small screen and one or two others on the big screen, not all worthy of full page reviews, but here is a general round-up in a couple of parts.
First up, and probably one of the best out of the collection seen in the last couple of weeks is Ben Wheatley’s Civil War-era head-trip, A Field In England. An intense, funny hallucination of a film, filmed in gorgeous black and white cinematography on a shoestring, with some terrific performances.
This is brave, unconventional film-making and I’m so glad we have someone like Ben Wheatley making films like this and Sightseers and Kill List. Savage, weird, wholly unsettling films that make you remember how great cinema can be when boundaries are breached and two fingers are shown to predictability.
Trying to sum this film up is impossible. At it’s most basic, it’s about five men in a field during the English Civil War looking for treasure. Magic mushrooms are consumed. Black magic occurs. Is it a meditation on the British class system? Are they all in purgatory? Is it straight-out fantasy complete with magic? Answering those questions is kind of missing the point. It really has to be seen. If nothing else, it is the closest depiction of the magic mushroom experience committed to film. Not that I would know about such things… ahem…
Next is one of a slew of upcoming apocalypse comedies, This Is The End. If you know the players involved, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill etc… then you already know exactly what the film will be like.
It’s a collection of dick jokes, riffs on horror films (The Exorcist being the most obvious one) and general arseing around. Some jokes are funny. Some definitely aren’t. Some outstay their welcome.
There is a modicum of satirical fun being poked in Hollywood’s direction. Michael Cera’s cameo is hysterical. Rihanna is swallowed by a flaming hell-hole. There is one gimp-suit reveal that is cringe-inducingly amusing. Much of it feels like self-indulgence. Best parts of the film are the straight scenes at the beginning between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel. After that the tonal shifts are jarring and many scenes just feel thrown in for the hell of it. Bring on The World’s End.
Not a single frame is wasted in this hypnotic film. Every image and texture is relevant to the story in some way, be it directly or as a subtle, metaphorical image, all building and layering to create a whole. The foreshadowing is so beautifully done throughout it makes a repeat viewing an absolute must.
India Stoker is left to live with her unstable mother and creepy uncle after her father dies, but what is the uncle’s true purpose? What secrets is he hiding? The answer is more complicated than you might think and the film moves in unexpected directions. Despite India Stoker being a closed character, whose thoughts you aren’t privy to in the way you might be in novel, she still elicits a great deal of sympathy and draws the viewer in.
The film-making here is sensual, creating a complete world, using sound to create texture and music to unsettle; using editing to fracture time and represent mental states. You constantly question what is real as the entire film has a dream-like feel. The acting performances are top-notch and while it might not be for everyone – it does move at a slow pace (albeit full of dread and tension) – I would recommend this thoroughly, if even just to see what cinema is capable of when utilised to the full extent of its capabilities.