Director In The Spotlight: Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley copyright Jesus Perujo from flickr under CC 2 licence

Who would’ve thought that a man on a rope standing and staring dreamily into the distance would be an image that could haunt you for months to come? Ben Wheatley would.

The Brighton based Director has recently finished his fifth film, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s disturbingly reasonable novel ‘High-Rise’, and there has never be a better time to delve into his paranoid world.

His career path seemed to be taking a somewhat traditional route. ‘Down Terrace’, a micro budget family crime drama, impressed with it’s sense of claustrophobia and surprising nastiness. Following this, he secured funding for ‘Kill List’. This further demonstrated that he and his co writer/editor Amy Jump are a pairing to look out for, as they turned a suffocating, horribly tense hitman thriller into something that resembled an altogether different film (to reference the final act with another movie would ruin the surprise.)

‘Sightseers’ is genuinely hilarious, as we travel with a couple on a murderous, romantic, odyssey through the English countryside in a caravan.

Again demonstrating range, ‘Sightseers’ can perhaps be seen as Wheatley’s first foray into mainstream independent cinema. Again though, working with Steve Oram and Alice Lowe (the film’s stars and writers), he made it thoroughly his own. As a general rule, ‘Black Comedy’ has become a term used to describe unfunny jokes delivered with a straight face, so when someone actually manages to pull it off we must stand up and take notice.
‘Sightseers’ is genuinely hilarious, as we travel with a couple on a murderous, romantic, odyssey through the English countryside in a caravan.

At the risk of over-simplifying things, shit gets weird.

Then, at the risk of over-simplifying things, shit gets weird. You would perhaps expect a director’s next release to another step up in scale, perhaps even a studio film or something similar. Instead, Wheatley went and made a movie set in a field.

‘A Field in England’ is a bad acid trip, in a really good way. The aforementioned man on the rope is a mere snapshot of a myriad of affecting images and a deeply unsettling soundscape.

Once he has you in his grip he is going force to go places you don’t want to go, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Permeating all of Ben Wheatley’s work is a unnerving sense of nervous mania. He achieves this fantastically, sound designer Martin Pavey playing a huge role. Very few filmmakers can make a dinner party almost suffocatingly intense (‘Kill List’.)

Ben Wheatley is a filmmaker who knows how to manipulate his audience. Once he has you in his grip he is going force to go places you don’t want to go, and there is nothing you can do about it. That’s to be commended.

Article by Nick Inglis. Contact Nick at nickinglis77 at gmail.com

Photo: Ben Wheatley copyright Jesus Perujo from flickr under CC 2 licence

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