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Blu-ray Review: 'A Field In England' (2014)

A Field in England

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It's rare that a movie leaves me at a (temporary) loss for words. But that's the case with 'A Field In England', which is the latest Blu-ray release for Austin's own Drafthouse pictures which will be officially released on April 8, 2014 (it had a limited theatrical and VOD release in 2013).

Reece Shearsmith in 'A Field In England'
Reece Shearsmith in 'A Field In England'
Reece Shearsmith in 'A Field In England'

The movie is a period piece, set in the English civil war. Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) is an alchemist’s assistant, and self-confessed coward. He teams up with a trio of army deserters in a quest to find O'Neil, a sorcerer who stole secrets from Whitehead's master, and is using his newfound knowledge to dark means.

But the search for O'Neil is far arduous than Whitehead and his cohorts have imagined, and proves just as trying as the war they've run away from.

What follows is a descent into madness and trippy mushroom-fueled hallucinations. It is this mix of Gothic English horror and psychedelia that makes it as unique as it is confounding.

'A Field In England' is directed by British filmmaker Ben Wheatley, whose known for other disorienting thrillers such as 2012's 'Kill List.' And like that film, it's apparent that he's more concerned (and perhaps too much so) with atmosphere over story, and therefore the plot is in many ways irrelevant.

"Open up and let the devil in" O'Neil informs his failed captors, and in this instance the devil invades our eyes. The movie opens with the warning statement that it contains “flashing images and stroboscopic sequences.”

And it's in those hallucinatory cross-cut sequences that the movie excels in giving the viewer both a unique experience and quite possibly a faint headache.

The movie's dialogue borders between the humorous (Shearsmith brings his dark comedic gifts one expects from 'The League Of Gentlemen' alum) and the frustratingly obtuse, and the plot and conclusion follow suit.

But for a visual feast made of such sparse environment, it's also a uniquely beautiful experience, with gorgeous, fractious cinematography from Laurie Rose (he custom designed the camera lenses used in the film).

'A Field In England' will leave you scratching your head, but also bewitched with the unique imagery.

The Blu-ray comes with the bells and whistles one expects from Drafthouse releases, which are listed below.

* Audio commentary with director Ben Wheatley, producer Andy Starke and sound editor Martin Pavey

* Inverview with Ben Wheatley

* Camera tests reel

* Masterclass Featurettes: The Edit; The Practice of Magic: Visual Effects; Influences; If Thoul't Be Silent: Recording the Sound; The World of the Field: Location; Costume; Cinematography: The Look of the Film; Only Shadows: Acting; Scoring the Field: Music; Journey of a Scene – Rushes, First Assembly and Final Cut (Blu-ray exclusive); Anatomy of a Scene (Blu-ray Exclusive)

* Trailer

* 16-page booklet featuring an interview with Ben Wheatley

'A Field In England' is unrated and runs 91 minutes.