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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