In The Earth Review
Its The Earth opens with a monolith before ending with a hallucinogenic jolt. Maybe it's the first time Ben Wheatley could reimagine 2001: A Space Odyssey in a rainy English forest. After his dazzling film adaptation of Rebecca, Wheatley is back with his brash, sassy high-concepts shot with low-fi verve, laced with molasses-black comedy, and all set to a lively Clint Mansell synth score. Filming during a time of pandemics plays well into the skills of Wheatley as a filmmaker who can find the most creative work in the midst of adversity. Other filmmakers had to adjust to the bare-bones resources of a pandemic film This is where Wheatley excels as In The Earth makes the most of it.
The writer-director-editor sets his stall out slowly and deliberately. In a state of pandemic despair Scientist Dr Martin Lowery (the likeable Joel Fry) arrives at the remote Gantalow Lodge to take some important equipment to former coworker (and perhaps former love) Doctor Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires). Investigating ways to make the growth of crops more efficient in the mega-fertile earth, Wendle has become famous for her belief that all trees in the forest are connected like a giant brain, but she's been absent for several months (the film builds a huge Colonel Kurtz-like energy within her). Lowery is along for the ride with the park Ranger Alma (Ellora Torchia), who alerts the newbie to the legend of Parnag Fegg Pagan folklore about an ancient spirit who allegedly exists in the forest. Everything seems to be fine until the two are confronted and beat to death at night, under the protection of a gloomy darkness. This is only the beginning of their troubles. Then comes Reece Shearsmith as Zach, the man who lives illegally in the woods. He creates more tension and tension than any of the Leatherfaces as well as Jigsaws. In a long career of playing awe-inspiring bizarre characters, Zach might be Shearsmith's best.
It's a thrilling experience. Part survivalist thriller as well as a slash-andstalk thriller.
What follows is a mash-up the twisted mythology of bodies horror and trippy images and all wrapped into an insightful Covid parable. In the sub-genre of lockdown (Songbird, Malcolm & Marie, Locked Down), Wheatley's film is the best at capturing the moment from the particulars (masks with social distancing an eerie turn in an horizontal flow test) to the worries of our time (a discussion on the possibility of things being similar post-Covid; and how isolation creates an aversion to empirical evidence). However, Wheatley has bigger and more relevant issues that occupy his thoughts. In The Earth explores the interaction between folklore and sciencetechnology as magic and vice versa and how nature could be communicating with or through us. Sometimes, the sketchy characters appear to be cyphers for these concepts However, the castparticularly Torchia and Squires usually make it seem real.
However, this isn't to say it's not true that In The Earth is some practice in chin-stroking. It's a visceral and intense experience. it's a survivalist-themed drama that's also a action thriller that is full of tension and fear, all enhanced by the wild editing techniques (flash cuts or jump cuts, sudden cut-offs in dark) along with strobe effect that create a soaring atmosphere. The film is reminiscent of A Field In England's psychedelia. The final section enters a brand new world of madness, which offers neither easy answers nor soothing resolutions. That's just how Wheatley enjoys it.