Field in England, A (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 2-Oct-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Ben Wheatley, Andy Starke and Martin Pavey
Interviews-Cast-Ben Wheatley
Featurette-Making Of-12 sections (81:47)
Theatrical Trailer
More…-Camera tests
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 90:16
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ben Wheatley
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Reece Shearsmith
Peter Ferdinando
Richard Glover
Ryan Pope
Michael Smiley
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Jim Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     During the English Civil War three deserters from a skirmish, Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith), Jacob (Peter Ferdinando) and Friend (Richard Glover) are gathered by Cutler (Ryan Pope) and guided away from the fighting. Moving across the countryside, they cross a line of mushrooms marking the boundary of a field. But they have been led here deliberately by Cutler at the instigation of the man waiting in the field, O’Neil (Michael Smiley). O’Neil and Whitehead previously had the same Master, an Astronomer and Alchemist, but O’Neil had stolen some of his alchemy documents and brought them to this field where he is convinced buried treasure is hidden. O’Neil needs Whitehead to divine the location of the treasure within the field, and Jacob and Friend have been captured by Cutler to dig once Whitehead identifies the spot. But the field has a hallucinatory effect upon all the men and, if there is treasure in that field, it certainly is not gold but something far more sinister.

     A Field in England is very different and will certainly divide opinion as to its merits; either it is an interesting experimental art house film or a total waste of time! The film uses one location (the field) and a cast of six; it is also filmed in black and white, explains nothing of what is happening and the ending creates more questions than it answers. The film also utilises every student camera and sound trick in the book, and feels like a student film; there are kinetic hallucinatory effects aplenty, strobe effects, jump and split screens, out of focus sequences, slow motion and staged tableau poses. The sound design makes heavy use of drums, atonal effects, music including medieval sounding instruments, folk songs, and silences omitting all the weather effects, plus quite a bit of declamatory dialogue. The net effect of the obvious visual and auditory tricks is that there is never any doubt that what we are watching is not real – which most likely is the point.

     On the other hand, the look of the film and the acting are definite pluses. The black and white vistas of the English countryside and skies, courtesy of DP Laurie Rose, look wonderful, the black and white being used to provide a depth of field and detail that almost looks 3D. The costumes look lived in and the acting of all the cast is low key and believable, making the extended dialogue sections interesting and with enough differentiation between the characters to make them individuals.

     Shot in chronological order in 15 days in one location, A Field in England can be considered as either an interesting experiment in filmmaking by Ben Wheatley or a self-indulgent, pretentious piece where there is a lot of talk, much is suggested and nothing is explained. It takes a while to get into but is certainly very different.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     A Field in England is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The film is presented in a black and white which often looks luminous. The blacks and greys are finely defined, detail is crisp with the beards on the faces, the costumes, the trees and grasses razor sharp. However, as noted, A Field in England incorporates kinetic effects such as flashing intercutting, strobe effects, jump and split screens, out of focus sequences and slow motion among other camera effects to create the hallucinatory sequences – this is not a film to watch if you are effected by stroboscopic filming. Brightness and contrast are also deliberately varied in different scenes.

     There are no marks, but there is a deal of noticeable blur around the characters as they move against the background of trees.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired in a clear and largish white font can be selected from the menu.

     A black and white print with stunning detail that looks as the filmmakers intended.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English DTS-MA HD 5.1. There is also an audio commentary track and English audio description in a modulated male voice, both Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps.

     As noted, the sound design is very much an integral part of the film. The battle which begins and ends the film is unseen but the surrounds carry the sounds of fighting, including cannon, and there is panning effects. The audio also makes heavy use of drums as well as atonal effects during the hallucinatory scenes. There are deliberate silences, although at other times weather effects, such as wind and rain, occur as well as the music. The sub-woofer supported the music, the hallucinatory effects, cannons and gunshots.

     Dialogue was sometimes indistinct due to the speed of delivery and the accents where the subtitles came in handy.

    The music by Jim Williams was a diverse mix including medieval sounding instruments, such as a dulcimer and penny whistle, drums and folk songs. It was effective and suited the film.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

     A good enveloping audio track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with Ben Wheatley, Andy Starke and Martin Pavey

     Director Ben Wheatley, producer Andy Starke and sound designer Martin Pavey sit together and are obviously good friends as this is a light hearted track with a lot of laughing. A Field in England is definitely a film that requires explanation of what it is about but unfortunately only a few clues are given here. Instead, the commentary focuses on the shoot, design and look of the film, most of which are covered in more detail in the Making of featurette on this DVD. Not the worst commentary, but I would have liked more.

Featurettes

     There are an extensive set of bonus features, all of which are listed separately in the extras menu, although there is a play all option. In reality they fall into three main sections; an extended interview with the director, the Making of A Field in England, and a trailer and camera test footage. In keeping with the black and white of the feature, all extras are also in black and white.

Interview with director Ben Wheatley (22:31)

     Wheatley chats to Pete Tombs about the genesis of the project, his influences and intentions, breaking the fourth wall, the reasons for shooting in black and white and some technical challenges. Worth a look.

The Making Of (81:47)

     A genuine and interesting look at a wide range of aspects of the low budget filmmaking experience. This consists of on-set and post set footage plus interviews, mostly Ben Wheatley but with additional contributions from Laurie Rose (DP), Jim Williams (composer), the producer, costume designer, sound recordist, camera assistant, the standby art director, prosthetics supervisor and actors Michael Smiley, Richard Glover and Reece Shearsmith. It consists of these sections, which can be selected individually or through a play all option:

     The Edit (4:35): Creating the psychedelic, kinetic scenes.

     The Practice of Magic: Visual Effects (5:32): Creating the prosthetics and visual effects, such as the back of a head being blown out.

     Influences (2:41): Influences on Wheatley including English period drama, such as Culloden and Japanese art house horror cinema.

     If Thou’lt be Silent: Recording the Sound (3:34): The perils of trying to record usable production sound on location under a military flight path.

     The World of The Field: Location (5:25): The field as a character in the film and how to try to stop your one location – a field of grass – being trampled flat by the cast and crew.

     Costume (4:32): Costume design for the various characters and what not to wear in 1648.

     Cinematography: The Look of the Film (3:25): Shooting in black and white with digital cameras, creating the psychedelic look of the film and adapting cheap lenses.

     Only Shadows: Acting (7:04): How different actors prepared and a look at the pre-shoot rehearsal.

     Scoring The Field: Music (5:45): Intentions and influences on the music and sound design.

     Time (4:32): Time management on set to make sure all the shots required are done and Wheatley’s shooting methods.

     Journey of a Scene – Rushes, First Assembly and Final Cut (23:16): Wheatley also edited A Field in England and this is a fascinating look at how the final shootout scene was constructed, showing the original rushes, the first cut and the final cut. Excellent.

     Anatomy of a Scene (11:43): On set footage showing how the final shootout scene was shot over two days. Also very interesting.

Trailer (1:58)

Camera Tests Reel (10:28)

     Test footage using various lens and dollies. Accompanied by discordant music and some bird sounds.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There is no current release of A Field in England in Region A US. I cannot find a review of the Region B UK Blu-ray, but sales sites list it as being in an aspect ratio of 1:78.1 and with extras which include the commentary and cast and crew interviews. I doubt that version has anything different to our release. Buy local.

Summary

     A Field in England can be considered as either an interesting experiment in filmmaking by Ben Wheatley or a self-indulgent, pretentious piece where there is a lot of talk, much is suggested and nothing is explained. If this sounds of interest it is worth a look; I can guarantee that you are unlikely to have seen anything quite like it.

     The video is as the filmmakers intended, the sound design very good. Extras are genuine and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, December 23, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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