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
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
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.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015