Alice Jones' Arts Diary

From Sightseers to Civil War: Ben Wheatley directs his fourth film in three years (in a field in Guildford)

Nightmarish black comedy A Field in England was shot in just 12 days 

His grisly caravan murder spree Sightseers was the surprise, award-winning hit of last year. Now, with the unfortunate holidaymakers barely cold in their graves, Ben Wheatley is back in cinemas with a psychedelic period drama set during the English Civil War.

“We’d made three films in three years and we didn’t want to lose the momentum of Sightseers while we waited for our next, bigger, film to come together. So we thought we’d slip one in under the radar”, the director tells me. A Field in England was shot in just 12 days, in a single field in Guildford. “But ‘A Field in Guildford’ is not such a brilliant title”, says Wheatley. “Oddly, a lot of movies get shot in Guildford – who knew? We literally shot the whole film in what was the overflow car park for Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. While we were there they were shooting Thor 2. One day we saw a massive balloon in the sky; it was full of paparazzi snapping pictures of the set.”

A Field in England is a nightmarish black comedy about a group of deserters who end up in the clutches of a strange alchemist in a magical field. Part Witchfinder General, part Time Team, it stars Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh) and Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen) and is written by Wheatley’s wife Amy Jump, who also collaborated on his breakout film Kill List and Sightseers

Wheatley had wanted to make a Civil War movie since the start of his career when he began to film historic battle re-enactments as a sideline to his job in corporate video-making. Inspired by Paul Verhoeven, who started out shooting Dutch military training exercises, he began to follow the historical re-enactment society The Sealed Knot as they staged their costumed Civil War battles around the country. “It was a way of working on a massive scale but with not very much money”, he recalls. “When you see it in action, it’s a mixture of history, sport and fashion - bizarre but brilliant. So I followed them around for a bit and ended up making a little recruitment video for them. It’s now in my loft somewhere.”

Will A Field in England be as gory as Sightseers? It’s a very earthy film; every bodily function is represented. There’s a gun battle with muskets which is quite spectacular. And quite a lot of singing.” The film is shot in black and white, using lenses hand-made from plastic children’s toys, among other things. “It was something I’d always wanted to do. Black and white is all about texture and contrast. You see lace, the texture of the grass and the lines in the mens’ faces.”

The film will be released in cinemas nationwide, and on TV, DVD and Video-on-Demand on the same day, 5 July – the first UK film to follow such a distribution model, in partnership with Film 4, Picturehouse Entertainment, 4DVD and Film 4 Channel.

“We thought about doing something like that after we released Kill List. When that was on television there was a massive audience and it seemed a shame that so many people had seen it so late in the game”, says Wheatley. “This is a way of harnessing all that focus and publicity in one moment. Sure, it’s designed to be seen in the cinema but not everyone will be living near a cinema that has it on. And people are busy. I’m a big film fan but I often can’t get to the cinema during a film’s run – even with big films I really want to see.”

Wheatley is now working on his fifth feature film, Freak Shift, a monsters vs cops sci-fi movie, set in America.

A Field in England is released in cinemas, on Film4, VOD, DVD & BLU-RAYon 5 July www.afieldinengland.com

Also in the Arts Diary

Custom-made banknotes are good currency for Muse and other musos

Saucersful of secret good deeds inspire art-lovers at London's Foundling Museum

@AlicevJones

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before