What is ‘A Field In England’?

‘A Field In England’ is a low budget, black and white, art-house film by director Ben Wheatley, also known for Kill List(2011), Sightseers (2012), which was released on Friday July 5th 2013. But what’s so special about this film that makes it worth talking about in regards to the Institutions and Audiences AS exam? Well, it tried to break the Hollywood model of distribution by becoming the first film in the UK to launch simultaneously across all platforms.

  • VOD, meaning Video On Demand, (4OD and iTunes)
  • free broadcast TV (Film4)
  • DVD
  • BluRay
  • cinema (17 Picturehouse venues)

How much did the film cost to make?

The film’s budget was £316, 879, with a £112,00 P&a spend supported by £56,701 from the BFI Distribution Fund. The film was fully financed by Film4.

Target Audience?

The primary audience was ABC1 (anyone within the economic group) 18-25 years old and frequent cinema goers in the 25-35+ bracket who may have previously already been aware of Wheatley’s work and other films (Kill List, Sightseers). audiences

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How was the film advertised?

Wheatley and the whole cast supported the release plan and mobilised their active social media fan base including the likes of twitter.  A number of interviews with executives suggested the film would not have bettered its performance through a conventional release. Along with the marketing innovations was an in-depth masterclass website featuring Wheatley, this attracted a large, engaged audience.

Above is the video that’s placed on the film’s website (http://www.afieldinengland.com/) that successfully raised attention for the piece.

Was the film a success in terms of reaction and revenue?

  • 29% of the theatrical audience, according to the cinema exit poll, rated it “excellent”, 41% – “very good” = giving a “highly favourable” score of 70%
  • On TV is drew an audience of 288,000 viewers and when those who recorded the film on Saturday and Sunday were also added to the total, it was at 357,00 – up on Film4’s slot average of 346,000.
  • AFiE was also the number one trending topic on Twitter in the UK on Friday evening, and sales of DVDs from Amazon and HMV across Friday and Saturday amounted to 1,462.
  • On Film40D and iTunes platforms there were a total of more than 1,000 purchases.




In my A2 short film, Screen Three, the old man and the youths who appear in the piece could be argued to adhere to contrasting stereotypes. The old man in the film’s establishing shot appears low in the frame, out in the open and is positioned to look smaller and below the youths as they enter the scene. These things arguably appeal to the yulneralbe characteristic many elderly members of the society are stereotyped to posses. Similarly, his white hair and old-fashioned jacket likens him to the older community. Barthes’ action code theory involving the youths acting bashfully and abusively by throwing popcorn, kicking the old man’s chair and yelling contrast with the old man’s representation. These action codes and their dark hoodies suggest them to adhere to the stereotypical anti-social youths of today in Britain, which is where the film is set as suggested by their British accents. In this way, our film adheres to Strauss’ theory of binary opposition. The conflict between these opposites, he argues, form the base for narratives and this is presented through the conflict of young and old. Propp’s theory of characters is adhered in a high majority of films. He argues that all characters in any film fall into a certain category from a list he has created. The list involves the hero, villain, donor, princess, dispatcher, false hero and the helper. While our film subverts his theory by not including the majority of those characters listed, it could be argued the hero and villain is portrayed within the old man and the youths. The hero of a film is the character who the audience is most focused upon. The first shot of our film is a close up of our main character, Peter, the old man, and so having this close up straight away quickly helps the audience identify who the hero is in our film. A convention of drama films is having a character that audiences can empathise and sympathise with. Establishing this focus on a certain character, and showing his emotional troubles through close ups, direct viewers’ empathy and acts as audience gratification. While this focus suggests Peter as the hero, his actions, arguably, do not. I directed the actor who plays the old man to appear distressed and anxious and while he did this, he also remains still and inactive throughout the whole film until he finally gets up and leaves the cinema. His vulnerability and inaction conflicts with the conventional hero who is brave and fights back at those causing harm. In this way, he subverts with the stereotypical hero and assumes the stereotype of a helpless old man. On the other hand we have the youths. They are continually suggested as evil, a characteristic possessed by many villains, through there abusive nature. They confront the old man and act aggressively towards him by coming closer to him and kicking his chair violently. Also, darkness is also associated with evil characters and my youths adhere to this by being dressed in dark clothes and in an absence of  strong light, unlike the old man. According to Todorov, every narrative begins an equilibrium which is distorted by an antagonist force that leads to the disequilibrium. By being with the old man comfortably watching his film and then being disrupted by the youths, Screen Three adheres to this theory. The introduction of the youths soon leads to the disequilibrium to occur and so in this way they are presented as villains who come in the way of our protagonist.


Franco-Bulgarian historian and essayist, Tzvetan Todorov, created a theory concerning the structure of narratives. According to his work, pieces begin with an equilibrium which is disrupted by an event leading into the disequilibrium and once good is restored, audiences are introduced to a new equilibrium. My A2 film, Screen Three, adheres somewhat to this theory. The close-up on the elderly protagonist showing his relaxed and comfortable state presents the equilibrium; a man quietly enjoying a film at the cinema. However, true to Todorov’s theory, our film soon comes to its disequilibrium when the three youths who enter the scene begin to abuse our protagonist. It could be argued our film subverts from Todorov’s ideas since my piece ends on a cliffhanger and audiences do not know of the protagonist’s fate. It remains a mystery and this means a new equilibrium is not featured in my film. The way this part of the story is left out may be an interesting subversion of this narrative theory since are left to imagine what happens next for themselves.

If one looks at the characters in Screen Three, an adherence may be seen to Propp’s theory of characters which is that all narratives contain certain characters. His list includes a hero, villain, help, donor, princess, dispatcher and the false hero and our character arguably features two from this list; the hero and the villain. Due to the focus given on the old man at the start of the film, created by close ups of him and the lighting emphasising his appearance in the frame, it’s easy for audience to recognise him as the hero of the story; the protagonist who the audience expects to follow as the film progresses. His elderly appearance and stillness makes him seem like a threat and vulnerable however, the youths are identifiable with the qualities of villains. They are dressed in dark clothing and act abusive towards the protagonist by yelling at him, throwing popcorn at him and kicking his seat which places them into Propp’s category as villains. While these adhere to Propp’s ideas. the other characters in his list are not featured within my film and so the film subverts with his ideas.

Theorist Levi Strauss identified that narratives work because they are often based around the conflict between binary opposition. The protagonist and antagonists of Screen Three arguably adhere to certain examples of binary opposition, such as good and evil. The abuse of the youths and their villainous characteristics suggested through their offensive and rude dialogue regarding sex and violence at the start of the scene portrays them as evil. This strongly contrasts with the old man, whose facial expressions shown in close ups and reluctance to act upon the youths suggests he is good. The way much of the narrative focuses on this battle between the evil youths and the good old man adheres to Strauss’ ideas. Similarly, the binary opposition regarding age is certainly within my film. The white haired old man who is reserved and quiet conflicts with the loud and energetic youths who throw popcorn and move amongst the cinema to annoy their target. Their movement and the way the old man stays still conforms to stereotypes the audience may have upon the fragile elderly and the bashful youth of today.

Barthes’ codes of action, symbols and enigma in conventional narratives offer gratification for audiences. Codes arousing fear are used in horrors, codes that thrill and excite are often used in action and thriller films. The narrative for Screen Three heavily focuses on this codes that help the audience identify what they’re watching. For example, the heavy focus on the old man and the negative portrayal of the youths let audiences sympathise and empathise with this protagonist. These feelings and effects are often exploited in drama films as a narrative element.


Films that fall into the drama genre exhibit real life situations with settings that are familiar to the viewer. Our coursework production, Screen Three, is mostly set within a cinema and this could be argued to adhere to this convention of drama pieces.Most people have been to the cinema to watch a film, or at least are familiar with the setting. In this way, Screen Three appeals to audiences’ expectations of the drama genre and this is established immediately once the films starts due to the film projector sound effect being played, the close-up of our protagonist being illuminated by the projector’s light and also the establishing shot that comes after this that reveals the theatre’s seats.

Along with setting, realistic characters are often featured within drama productions to convey the idea of realism in the piece. Through our script and my directing of the actors, I wanted the characters to follow the stereotypes of today’s youth and elderly community in order to familiarise audiences with realistic characters. By their abusive behaviour, dark clothing, and sexual and violent conversation, audiences can recognise their characters through replicating the anti-social youth of today. The character of Peter, the film’s protagonist, dramatically contrasts with the youths through also being applied to stereotypes. Rather than being abusive, Peter is like a stereotypical old man by appearing vulnerable and reserved which is highlighted through close-ups of his face which showing his character’s emotions. Adhering to these stereotypes arguably creates more realistic characters and so suggests that the film is a drama piece.

The abusive relationship and hateful conversation between the elderly man and the youths in our film echoes the “intense social interaction” that drama films often expose to their audience. Binary opposition, a theory created by Ferdinand de Saussure, could be applied to our film through these characters which arguably intensifies this “interaction”. In order to contrast the youths and the old man, we set up more lighting upon the old man and left the youths in less light while having them in dark clothing and the man in white and light greys. This, visually, sets them apart which is also done by their behaviour. While the youths are seen in a establishing shot yelling and throwing popcorn, the old man appears quiet and reserved. Having them in the same wide shot establishes their conflicting representations.

Also, drama also features the portrayal of a journey or some kind of character development which I think lies within the story of Screen Three. At the beginning of the film, our protagonist, Peter, is calm, collected and relaxed in his environment. However, once exposed to the horrors of the youths’ abuse, the dis-equilibrium, he dramatically changes and becomes a nervous, angry and reckless man who is a danger to those around him. The purpose of a dramatic story line is to “move an audience emotionally” and this character development, which is arguably the focus of our production, is what achieves this effect upon viewers. “At the heart of drama is conflict” and with the youths’ abuse in mind, this is certainly within our film.

However, within drama films “a form of realisation or happy ending” is often featured. Our film does not conform to this convention with its dramatic, shocking ending but this “happily ever after” idea is conflicted in many dramas. James Cameron’s’ Titanic breaks all the conventions as all does not end happily for the protagonists but has rather a tragic ending. Within our film, the ending is ambiguous but the close-up of the protagonist’s face appearing terrorised and horrified suggests things won’t end well for him.

Russian theorist, Tzvetan Todorov, suggests that all narratives follow a three part structure. They begin with equilibrium, where everything is balanced, progress as something comes along to disrupt that equilibrium, and finally reach a resolution, when equilibrium is restored. With Screen Three, it could be argued this new equilibrium is not restored due to the ambiguity and the suggested downfall of the protagonist.



In order to create the cinema scene, Jannath and I had the right location, props such as popcorn and popcorn boxes, and the right lighting thanks to a projector. But there’s something missing from this that would sell the scene – sound. A film is supposed to be shown right in front of Peter’s eyes. Recording the audio from the movie on set along with the dialogue would just be impractical, lack quality and undoubtedly ruin continuity. In the editing process it would be a nightmare.

Film poster for Night of the Living Dead.

Film poster for Night of the Living Dead.

However, I realised the best way to execute shooting the scene would be adding the film soundtrack later on Final Cut Pro. I could have used a soundtrack from my past films or possibly shot an entirely new audio track to place over but in my research I found an opening I could not refuse. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead served to create the old-fashioned atmosphere I wanted for the cinema which would be violently interrupted by and contrast with the youths.

But was this legal? In a short answer: yes. The 1968 film, and its soundtrack, has entered the public domain due to an “error by the distributor”. When the film was released, US copyright law required copyright ownership to be displayed on the actual print of a film (e.g. in the credits). Early prints of Night of the Living Dead had the title Night of the Flesh Eaters, under which was the copyright information. When the title was changed for theatrical release, the distributors apparently failed to include the copyright information – leaving the film uncopyrighted and in the public domain. So it was that the distributors received all the profit from the film, and Romero never made a penny from it. This also explains why there are so many different VHS and DVD recordings (mostly of poor quality) available today. Anyone is allowed to make and distribute a copy.

This all means I am free to use the film as I please and even add it into my own movie, which is exactly what I’ve done in Screen Three. Anyone interested in watching the film, click the link below – it’s legal!




Ferdinand de Saussure himself.

Today in class we discussed BINARY OPPOSITION. Binary opposition originated in structuralist theory created by Ferdinand de Saussure and is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning, such as BLACK and WHITE, GOOD and EVIL, LIGHT and DARK, UP and DOWN. Binary opposition is an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In structuralism, a binary opposition is seen as a fundamental organiser of human philosophy, culture, and language.

This theory can be applied to film so lets apply it to my own work.

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With Screen Three, I think one of the most noticeably examples of binary oppositions is young and old however, our film subverts stereotypes in a way. Often in films, a young hero will rise against the forces of an old, evil villain but in this case it is the young who are antagonistic and the older character, Peter, who the audience supports and empathises with. Similarly there’s light and dark. Light is often associated with the protagonist and we adhered to this technique by lighting Peter brightly. His character contrasted with the youths who appear in more darkness and also wear darkly coloured clothes which we arranged prior to the shoot.