“A Field Full of Secrets” is, its filmmaker Charles Maxwell admits, something of a fool’s errand. He set out to find a definitive answer to the “mystery” of crop circles, those strange, geometric and artistic grain-mashing designs that have been popping up in the agricultural corners of Britain since the 1970s. After years of filmmaking, Maxwell, a British ex-pat living in Los Angeles, was so far down the rabbit hole that he helped finance a prototype of something one source he spoke to insisted was a 3D rendering of what the “real” crop circles were depicting.
Maxwell had already spoken with legions of experts on film — and a sole admitted “hoaxer,” one of those “cerealogists” who claim to create these things in the dark of the British night. Whatever these things are, and Maxwell gives “hoax” short shrift, “alien messages” more credence and “messages or blueprints from the future” the most credit of all, the adventurous filmmaker was willing to stick his neck out, find investors and make a flying saucer out of what one “inventor” and engineer saw in the designs.
Up to that point, “Field Full of Secrets” is one of the loveliest British travelogues in recent memory — stunning postcard vistas of Stonehenge and environs — Wiltshire, the county in England where many of these circles have turned up. Maxwell and his interview subjects say that the famed ancient Silbury Hill monument, an earth and chalk neolithic “pyramid” built some 4500 years ago, is ground zero in the crop circle world. So they visit it, trek to circles that have been made and stake out fields waiting to catch hoaxers in the act.
They don’t, which “proves” that these things are not stamped out by humans acting out a sort of large scale Spyrograph toy. Or it “proves” nothing of the sort, which Maxwell is reluctant to admit.
So he pursued other theories, especially the blueprints-send-from-the-future one. Nikola Romanski’s name and posts turn up on UFO forums, here and there. And this odd, roll-your-own-puffing transexual engineering whiz convinces Maxwell that some circles are depicting a flying saucer design and others alternative energy sources. That’s when Maxwell and the movie go down that rabbit hole.
But if you’ve seen “Interstellar” and can swallow at least a little of that film’s time travel/black hole science, maybe you’ll buy in the way Maxwell did. It’s fun to think just that way. Maybe you’ll see his “failure” as just one attempt at translating something in 2D to something it might be in 3D, as a first failed prototype. The scientist played by Jodie Foster in “Contact” wasn’t starved for cash, after all.
As the Carl Sagan quote that begins “Field Full of Secrets” reminds us, “They laughed at Edison…Fulton…the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
MPAA Rating: Unrated, with some profanity, pot-use.
Cast: Charles Maxwell, Nikola Romanski, Francine Blake,
Credits: Written and directed by Charles Maxwell. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:22