A week and a half ago Ben Wheatley’s fourth feature was released across a range of platforms in a unique, holistic new approach. A Field in England was made available in cinemas, on DVD and Blu-Ray, on Video on Demand and broadcast on TV. Since I’m back in a hovel of Devon for the summer there was no nearby cinema where I could indulge in watching Wheatley’s latest so I settled for watching it on Film4. The film is very different from his past efforts being a period piece set in the English Civil War and fitting in to the experimental horror genre its a bit of a departure from his previous gritty, realistic movies but there is still his signature to be seen.
Following a small group of blokes who have broken off from their army we are taken on a horrifying journey as they find themselves lost amongst the fields with a foreboding presence lurking over them. Shot completely in black and white Wheatley makes full use of his surroundings with the crisp HD making the colours feel vivid without even being there. Throughout the films hazy plot he uses a variety of editing techniques which makes the whole movie a trippy and strange experience. And he does deliver a unique feeling of threat in an unorthodox way. A Field in England has the it’s odd flourishes of graphic violence but for the most part plays on feelings of tension and fear and works very effectively. It’s a film that demands repeat viewings to fully get your head round its aims and concepts but one that I would be very happy to watch multiple times.
While perhaps being a slightly more difficult watch than Wheatley’s first three films A Field in England adds another feather to the ever growing bow of one of the most exciting talents in film at the moment. As interesting as it is haunting this movie is fantastic.
So this week I decided to watch Down Terrace, a gritty British drama directed by Ben Wheatley. Wheatley was the director of, the sublime, Kill List which came out last year and instantly became a favourite of mine so I was drawn to watch some more of his work. Down Terrace is set within Brighton and follows a family, who don’t appear to have been given a surname, that are in some way involved in some really dodgy business, my guess was that they’re in the drug trade but nothing was ever confirmed in the script. As the film goes on the family learn that someone has tipped off the police about their business and they start killing anyone who knows anything building up to a furious showdown at the end with a very big twist.
The film is incredibly effective, there are many similarities to the aforementioned Kill List, but there are also differences that set the two apart. For example, Down Terrace’s moment of extreme violence are a lot more sparse than those in Kill List and for this particular film it adds even more of a sense of mystery surrounding its main characters, these moments of violence are handled with expert skill in a film that, clearly doesn’t have the biggest of budgets. The actors all do a fantastic job, most of whom I didn’t recognise expect the Irish guy from Kill List, who plays Pringle, and the mother of the family Julia Deakin who I know well from Spaced, but the lack of known actors brings so much more to film’s integrity. It’s not especially uplifting stuff but it’s so well written and cleverly plotted giving you slices of information only when absolutely necessary and hinting at a huge back story that you’re left figuring out on your own. This makes the movie much more thought provoking and makes it seem so much more like real life. This is a much more realistic vision of life in a crime family, it feels like it really does capture a feeling that this could well be a true story.
I’ve now been blown away completely by both of Wheatley’s features as he seems to capture dark, gritty crime stories with flashes of hyper violence and does so with intricate skill. Roll on his third feature, due next year, A Field in England, this guy is definitely one to watch in future.