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A Field in England

A Field in England

A Field in England is not so much a film, more a metaphysical epileptic fit. Its unprecedented multiple opening in Britain – simultaneously in theatres and on DVD, video-on-demand, Blu-Ray and (tonight) TV channel Film4 – suggests the film’s creators think either “Here is a commercial turkey, let’s take the money and run” or “Here is a new epoch of cinema. Everyone gather round.”

I’ll go with the second. This wonderful, bewildering movie from Ben Wheatley, scripted by wife-collaborator Amy Jump (Kill List) and set on a day during the English civil war, has put reviewers at sixes, sevens and any other number you can think of. Try to decode a plot in which a band of deserters, of both sides, stumble into a mushroom-encircled field being surveyed, mysteriously, by a treasure-seeking alchemist. The film begins in violence, ends in violence – a thieves-fall-out climax of multiple shootings – and in between traipses a landscape sown with the surreal, the symbolic, the fantastical.

The rite of entrance into the field is a tug of war with a rope; a rope later leashes Whitehead, the story’s mournful-quizzical buffoon (Reece Shearsmith of TV’s The League of Gentlemen finding fresh shades of dark comedy), as he is sent snuffling for gold or treasure. Umbilical symbol-scape? Sounds it. My theory: A Field in England is about the birth of modern Britain, maybe the modern world. The English civil war was the set-to that preceded and in part precipitated the Enlightenment – that age when the quest for gold and the quest for God both started to become yesterday’s mysticisms – and here is a Prospero-like mage in a desert field (with mushrooms to hand!) practising his arts before a final, fate-coerced abdication.

The black-and-white photography, magically lit and textured, is like the primitive canvas on which the contemporary world starts to be daubed. In one visually astonishing sequence Wheatley melds the characters in quick-fire kaleidoscopic patterns, like a speeded-up version of the old Surrealists’ heads-and-bodies game. Its meaning? Perhaps that every person is everyone else until he becomes himself. (Definition of existentialism.) Likewise – that is surely the din of war planes we hear overhead in one battle scene? – every time is every other time, the present containing the past as memory, the future as potentiation.

A Field in England spins a single moment in history so that it becomes the centrifuge of all history. It is a ridiculously bold, imaginative movie. Its whirring dynamic is as likely to fling audiences outwards in fright or flight as to have them pinned, thrilled and gravity-defiant, to its fun-fair walls. I nominate it as a cult classic right now, with the “cult” disposable in the future at the first stage of canonic lift-off.

— Nigel Andrews, Financial Times

A Field in England

Fri & Sat April 18 & 19, 2014, 7:30 only, Muenzinger Auditorium

UK, 2013, in English, Black and White, 90 min, 2.35 : 1

recommend

Tickets

10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.

Parking

Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.

RTD Bus

Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

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Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

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Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

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(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

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Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

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