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A Field in England

Kudos to the programmers behind Little Red Booking, who in recent months have been running a consistently challenging and expansive monthly film series at Squeaky Wheel. Their programming, which lacks a series title (branding, guys, branding!), is in the best tradition of the early 1970s midnight programmers who exposed Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch and John Waters to the world.

Their next screening is A Field in England, the most recent film from Ben Wheatley, an independent young Brit who is edging into the mainstream; he is in pre-production for an adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s novel High Rise, and will be directing the first two episodes of the much-anticipated new season of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Taking place during the Civil War of the 17th century, A Field in England takes place entirely in the title meadow, where a handful of deserters have escaped a battle raging just over the hill. They have various backgrounds, but share the desire not to be killed in a war they know next to nothing about. Hoping to make it to a nearby village—more specifically, to the ale house there—they instead fall under the control of an alchemist, who is searching for a treasure rumored to be buried here.

But never mind any of that. Wheatley and his wife Amy Jump, who scripted, began with the notion of filming England’s equivalent of Civil War re-enactors and just wandered where their prodigious imaginations took them. A key to understanding the movie comes when this not-very-merry band stumbles into a mushroom circle. In British folklore, that’s a place where fairies dance, and they don’t like it at all if you barge in uninvited. And of course mushrooms can be a source of hallucinations when ingested, which these of course are.

Touchstones begin with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Wicker Man, and Peter Watkins’s Culloden, but that’s game you could play all day. The small cast comes from British comedy (fans of The Mighty Boosh will recognize Julian Barratt, a.k.a. The One Who’s Not Noel Fielding), which is so much more wide-ranging and serious than American comedy that it’s—well, it’s not even funny.

A Field in England will be screened at Squeaky Wheel on Thursday, Feb 20 at 7 pm.

Watch the trailer for A Field in England

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