INTERVIEW: Ben Wheatley Talks Pessimism, Film Distribution, and A Field in England by Tom Clift

The first time I saw Ben Wheatley’s sophomore film Kill List was at a late night screening during the 2012 International Film Festival of Rotterdam. Halfway through the projectionist had to stop the film to let paramedics wheel out a seizing audience member on a gurney. I don’t actually know if the film had anything to do with his convulsions, but given the visceral, psychological intenseness of what was being projected on screen, I can’t say it would’ve surprised me.

Truthfully, few filmmakers working today are capable of crafting such suffocating tension as Wheatley is. Even fewer can be funny while they’re doing it. The harmonious mix of surrealism, violence and pitch black comedy was further refined in his follow up, Sightseers, and continues into his most recent work, the low-budget, black and white period drama A Field in England.

Written and co-edited by Wheatley’s spouse and regular collaborator Amy Jump, the film tells the story of four deserters during the English civil war captured by an alchemist and forced to dig for treasure. With the aid of some hallucinogenic mushrooms, the film soon spirals into madness.

Also noteworthy is the film’s distribution strategy, wherein it was released in the United Kingdom this week in theatres, on DVD, streaming and on television all at the same time (the film will be released in America, via Drafthouse Films, later in the year). Alternate modes of distribution were just one of the things I asked Wheatley about, when we sat down at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival just a day before the U.K. release.

Click here to read the rest of Tom’s interview with Ben Wheatley.