This is a film I saw a long time ago and would recommend everyone to see it.
Set in 1649 against poverty and unrest sweeping England with the English Civil War drawing to an end and the failure of the Levellers to securing voting rights for non-landowners, a group of impoverished people, The Diggers, form a settlement on St George's Hill in Surrey under the leadership of General Winstanley.
The director, Kevin Brownlow, is better known as an historian than film Director, but he brought an historian's passion for authenticity and detail to the production of Winstanley.
Together with his excellent crew he was able to recreate a small patch of 17th Century England on which to stage the tragic drama of General Winstanley and his Diggers, a small band of Christian sommunists who farmed in common on St George's Hill in Surrey.
Though expert, the production was amateur. Unable to aquire funding, the film was shot over weekends over the course of a year, as and when the participants were available.
Miles Halliwell's performance as Winstanleyis otherworldly, balanced by steady meance projected by the sole professional actor, Jerome Willis, as General Fairfax.
Winstanley makes the most of informality and improvisation in scenes in the commune, while the words of Winstanley himself, taken verbatum from his tracts, are narrated by Halliwell.
Although Winstanley strips its literary source, David Caute's Comrade Jacob, of some of its reflectiveness, the film is also subject to contemporary influences.
The English Left has always remembered the English Civil War, and the noble but doomed struggle of the Diggers to establish a fair and equitable society had a particular appeal after the political and social upheavals of the 1960's. Sid Rawle who plays the leader of the radical religious dissenters, The Diggers, was in real life te leader of a hippy commune known as 'The New Diggers', the Ranters' violent ideological contempt for the Diggers practical communism (while accepting their hospitality) could also be seen as analogous to the relationship of hippies to the political movements of the 1960's and 1970's.
This film may have been an amateur production, but it certainly was not a naive film.
From the opening battle montage and the use of Prokofiev's score for Alexander Nevsky (USSR, 1938),it is a film steeped in cinema history as much as social history.
Winstanley was warmly received in many quarters.
Winstanley is not a product of the an experimental or avant-garde British cinema, but an extraordinary example of British mainstream cinema that never came into being.
A brilliant film for its times with all the disadvantages it had and the troubled production. 8/10