The only previous Ben Wheatley film I've seen, almost certainly through my own erring, is 'Kill List'. I was full of good intentions over catching 'Sightseers', yet alas it didn't come to be. But I was keener still to catch this latest release. I've always regarded the English Revolution as one of the more fascinating periods of our history. That our culture so often tries to sideline it only makes it more enticing. And I've always loved the cinema of the old, weird England, which is quite clearly being referenced here. (One review has described this film as “'Witchfinder General' as imagined by Alejandro Jodorowsky.”) Though I call it a cinema, it's possibly more a mood than a style. It's the mixture of the deadpan and hallucinatory, the clods of earth clinging to your feet and the Devil breathing down your back.
And it's heartening to know, in this era of CGI, 3D and all those other expense-inducing acronyms, that you can still shoot a film in black-and-white in less than two weeks, featuring five guys and a field. A film I'm likely to remember long after those tributes to excess that otherwise clogged our summer.
It is most likely merciful that I'm not offering a proper review of this film, for I'd surely get as waylaid as the characters within it. It's one of those films you know you want to see again before you've even finished your first watch. But as a very provisional stab at things – the mushroom circle is the primary metaphor. What we see isn't a causal series of events but an iteration – something which has probably happened before and will almost certainly happen again.
Though in many ways at variance from 'Kill List', it does share it's roots in the horror cinema of the Sixties and Seventies – and in particular the God-shaped hole which they seemed to focus on. (The paradox of such films was that they were aimed at a modern, sophisticated, secular audience, yet seemed pitched to warn that audience that things had almost literally gone to the Devil. They must make for some of the bleakest world-views in mainstream cinema.) 'Kill List' suggested socialisation was the same thing as damnation. 'Field' warns that we can defeat the Devil only by usurping him.
But of course to find fixed readings for such films would be the same error as trying to force on them linear plots. They're journeys not destinations. Their most clueless critique is “if you like it so much, try explaining what it means.” Of course you can like something without understanding it! There may well be no treasure at the bottom of it's pit, there may be “only shadows”, but it can still exist as a potent framing device in your mind. I felt as mesmerised in that mushroom-ringed field as any of the characters.
Something nearer to a proper review lies here.