"The condition of man... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone…Life is nasty, brutish, and short."
― Thomas Hobbes.
Given that there is a paucity of worthwhile films on the English Civil War, it is perhaps understandable that Ben Wheatley's new film has received significant interest from the historians and mainstream newspapers.
The period covered by the film is known to be in the words of one reviewer "one of the most exciting and tumultuous periods in English and British history".
Quite why Wheatley chose the setting of the Civil War is a bit of a mystery. Anyone looking for a history lesson will be bitterly disappointed.
The film pays homage to so many different film genres; it is sometimes a little hard to keep up. The film is beautifully shot in black and white and is heavily influenced by the 1975 film Winstanley.
Wheatley's film, like Winstanley, has a "stark monochrome beauty" to it. The film style pays homage to the Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. Like Winstanley A Field in England has a resonance with the German expressionist films of the 1920s and 1930s,
While the style of the two films is similar, the substance is entirely different. A Field in Britain offers no real insight into the ideological differences that arose during the Civil war. However, if you would like to see a film that beautifully photographed, funny in parts, disturbingly violent and crude, then this is your film.
It would be mistaken to believe that the film has no philosophy. Wheatley's apparent limited understanding of the Civil war does not stop him portraying his characters coming straight out of Thomas Hobbes book Leviathan. In other words, they were 'nasty, poor, brutish, and short'.
The film has a very basic plotline. Shot on a very small budget and is only 90 minutes long. Following the life four deserters. While it is unclear which side the deserters came from I would hazard a guess that three came from Parliament's side and one Whitehead was a Royalist sympathiser. Little is seen of the battle that our 'heroes' flee from they stumble into a field which is entirely where the film is set.
After eating some magic mushrooms, the group comes under the control of what seems a devil like figure O'Neil played very well by Michael Smiley.O' Neil has been having been pursued by our anti-hero, Whitehead. What plays out is largely a battle between good and evil.
Is A Field in England a fair reflection of the times we live in? Annette Bullen had this to say: "In fact, I think that both these films reflect their times and the concerns of the day. Winstanley began shooting in the late 1960s at the end of the period where Marxist historians' interpreted the English Civil War as a revolution. It was released in 1975 and this, rather neatly, coincided with a shift in the interpretation of these events in favour of new revisionist interpretations. So the earnest and urgent call for revolution which began in the 1960s had, by the time of the film's release, been taken over by a reinterpretation of the Civil War as being more evolutionary, stressing the importance of attempting to understand events and evidence in context rather than as a stage in a Marxist interpretation of history.
A Field in England, too, reflects our current times. Religion, a fundamental part of society during the 17th century, hardly features, with only one of the five characters being in anyway religious and the others sneering or indifferent to his prayers and his god. They would rather go to the pub to have a beer and a good stew than go to church. Nor are any of the characters interested in politics or the huge events taking place around them. Cromwell and the King are mentioned but these soldiers are self-interested and self-absorbed, fighting for an unknown cause with little conviction. They make a total contrast to Winstanley's New Model Army, who carry copies of 'The Case of the Armie' in their hats and debate at Putney their rights within the society for which they have fought". 
The fact that A Field in England has no Marxist revolutionary ideology or any recognisable ideology sad reflection on not only the filmmakers but on current historiography. The film is a wasted opportunity.