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Movie of the Day: A Field in England

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What It Is: An offbeat period piece that relies primarily on one location – hint: see the title of the movie – Ben Wheatley’s 2013 film tells the story of a group of English Civil War deserters on the lam. The deserters fall under the control of a wicked alchemist who forces them to search for a mysterious lost treasure. Shot in black-and-white on a shoestring budget, the film eschews lavish costumes or special effects, instead focusing on the psychological conflicts between the characters rendered in a psychedelic cinematic style. It’s not exactly a crowd pleaser or party flick, but it’s a smart selection for anyone in the mood for something a little more challenging.

Why It’s Unique: For starters, how many other movies can you name that are set against the historical backdrop of the English Civil War, let alone psychedelic period dramas about wizards and magic? Independent filmmakers are warned to stay away from historical subject matter due to the cost, but Wheatley’s film provides a good counter-example to this established maxim. Without extensive resources to draw from, the filmmakers did detailed historical research into the scientific origins of alchemical conjuring. The result is a film that casts a fine line between bizarre fantasy and gritty historical realism. However, the enigmatic final scenes leave it to the viewer to decide about the big picture questions concerning the spiritual and supernatural nature of the world. Yet despite the philosophical questions at the heart of the film, the film is ultimately a character piece that examines the ways in which humans exert power and control over one another.

Who Made It: The husband and wife team of Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump directed and wrote the film. Cult horror fans know the duo from their 2011 crime/folk horror mashup Kill List. They also released two higher profile (and bigger budget) projects after A Field in England, the dystopian thriller High Rise starring Tom Hiddleston and the 70’s inspired action crime movie Free Fire starring Brie Larson. Their films tend to cultivate a small but devoted audience who admire their dark, inventive storytelling and skewed outlook on the world. Wheatley’s next film appears to return to the more lo-fi sensibilities of Kill List and A Field in England. However, Wheatley and Jump are exactly the type of filmmakers that studios tend to eye when they’re trying to make an outside-the-box choice on the next big franchise. A less well-known superhero from Marvel or DC’s Cinematic Universes or a reboot property that’s not exactly a household could easily wind up in their twisted hands.

What People Who Liked It Said In 2014:

What Someone Who Didn’t Like It Said in 2014:

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