Ben Wheatley’s film “A Field In England” a Triumph of Marketing over Content.

Ben Whealey's A Field In England.

Ben Wheat­ley’s A Field In England.

Ben Wheatley’s new film A Field In Eng­land was released simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in cin­e­mas, on DVD, on the Inter­net and on tele­vi­sion all at the begin­ning of July. And the reviews that fol­lowed were almost unan­i­mous­ly stel­lar, as crit­ics were swept along by this clever piece of marketing.

Which is baf­fling, as it’s all over the place. Only Cather­ine Shoard raised a lone­ly voice of protest in her Observ­er review here.

There’s no sto­ry. Or at least not a whole one. What you have instead or four or five ideas for a sto­ry. Let’s take a bunch of guys and iso­late them in one loca­tion for an entire film. And it’s in the mid­dle of the Eng­lish Civ­il War, so some of them are on one side, and some are from the other.

But instead of fol­low­ing them in the midst of the action, let’s spend a day with them when they’ve noth­ing to do! Except hunt for buried trea­sure. Which they’re look­ing for using divination.

Plus there’s the whole Lord of the Flies thing, as they each revert to Hobb­sian brutes removed as they are from polite soci­ety. And occa­sion­al Pin­teresque, sub-Beck­et­t­ian pseu­do exis­ten­tial mus­ings along the lines that everything-will-be-all-right-once-we-get-to-the-Ale-House.

No women to distract from the "story".

No pesky women, beau­ti­ful or oth­er­wise, to dis­tract from the “sto­ry”.

Which is fine if all you’re doing is mak­ing ads. With bare­ly a minute to play with, all you can ever do is sug­gest a sto­ry, so you nev­er have to fol­low any of your ideas through. When you’re mak­ing a fea­ture film, you have to choose just one sto­ry and actu­al­ly tell it.

But as with his pre­vi­ous film The Kill List, Wheat­ley doesn’t seem to have the where­with­al to pur­sue a sto­ry through its begin­ning, mid­dle and end. Instead he resorts to hype, and slips back in to adver­tis­ing mode. Which was where he used to work before he decid­ed to try his hand at features.

You can see A Field In Eng­land’s trail­er here.

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