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Winstanley [Blu-ray] [1975]


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Product details

  • Actors: Miles Halliwell, Jerome Willis, Terry Higgins
  • Directors: Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Bfi Video
  • DVD Release Date: 3 Aug 2009
  • Run Time: 141 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002AHHOH8
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,366 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

A meticulously accurate historical film set in 1649 in the poverty and unrest left in the wake of the English Civil War. A group of impoverished men and women, led by Gerrard Winstanley (a former soldier and cloth merchant ruined by the war), set up a commune on St George's Hill in Surrey, and the story follows their attempts to live in perfect peace and harmony. Directors Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo attempted to make a completely authentic film - the costumes were copied from originals in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the armour was borrowed from the Tower of London Armoury, and the script was altered when Winstanley's pamphlets were discovered in the British Museum. The film is accompanied by an award-winning documentary, 'It Happened Here Again', by Eric Mival, who had previously worked with Brownlow and Mollo on 'It Happened Here'.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Barry Marshall on 15 Jan 2002
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Brownlow and Mollo's film 'Winstanley' is a faithful recreation of a forgotten episode in English history. A few months after the execution of Chalres I, after seven years of bloody Civil War, England was in a state of upheaval: a fecund ground for new ideas, new attitudes and new actions.
Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers were pioneers of 'direct action', claiming back common lands for the poor and dispossessed. The actions of the Diggers attracted the hostility of wealthy local lords, and their commune was many times raided.
This film conveys the hardships through which the Digger went. Miles Halliwell's portrayl of Winstanley is sympathetic; he almost IS Gerrard himself. I also enjoyed the scenes with the Ranters (seventeenth century hippie-types), which marvellously conveyed the mad anarchy of their beliefs, and also captured the bewilderment of Diggers themselves. Real-life activist Sid Rawle played his part with aplomb.
The film's sympathies lie clearly with the Diggers, but the directors do not flinch from showing us the adversity under which the Diggers laboured. Much of this is revealled through the words of their opponents, particularly the nasty Parson Platt, whose wife was entranced by the power of Winstanley's books. Yet not only people made life difficult for the Diggers. A harsh Nature is starkly captured in monochrome, though monochrome also captures the light admirably, which gives us a glimpse of hope, of redemption. Indeed the black and white cinematography--a result partly of aesthetic, partly financial reasons--gives the film a tangible historical edge. The dialogue is likewise authentic, much of Halliwell's narration derived verbatim from Winstanley's writings.
As the documentary at the end of the film shows, it was made on a shoestring, independent of big studios, and acted by amateurs. Its achievements are thus all the more admirable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Reduman on 23 Aug 2009
Format: Blu-ray
If someone had asked me several months ago whether I'd seen "Winstanley", I'd have probably answered "Who? I've never even met the guy!" Now I know better. This cinematic gem is a recent discovery for me. In fact, the BFI's recent Blu-ray releases of British filmic treasures have opened up these seldom shown films to a whole new audience. If you want to watch something more than your average formulaic Hollywood fare, then you've come to the right place.
This is the story of a mid-17th century band of peasant farmers, inspired by Gerrard Winstanley and William Everard, to establish a self-sufficient commune on a piece of common land known as St. George's Hill, Surrey. It is a story of hope and promise, but also of brutal resistance to new ideas and the powerful interest in maintaining the status quo. It is a moving and powerful movie, the likes of which you are unlikely to see again anytime soon. This newly restored, high definition version, with its stark black and white cinematography looks just fantastic, the quality of which belies its humble origins. Attention to detail, from clothing and uniforms to farming implements and even extending to the use of rare breeds of farm animals is astonishing. It is even more amazing for a production budget, which in today terms would proably just about pay for a few day's catering on any big blockbuster set!
I would maintain that the story of the making of this film [on a laughably tiny shoestring budget] is just as fascinating as the feature itself. Therefore, the inclusion of Eric Mival's 1976 contemporary 50 minute "making of" documentary on the Blu-ray disc is a real boon.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Feb 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Black and white gives a real historical feel to this heart-rendering story. The Diggers were idealists who rightly saw land as a crucial issue during the English Civil war. Sid Rawle - seventies squatter - plays the leader of the Ranters who disrupt the Diggers peaceful mission, Winstanley himself is played by Miles Halliwell, excellent casting in both cases. Though the film was made on a shoestring budget it's a must for anyone fascinated by the history of ideas or who wishes people today treated the earth as 'a common treasury for all'.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S.R.J VINE VOICE on 26 Sep 2009
Format: DVD
I rented this dvd by error, but glad I did. It is a mix of rank amateur cock up blended with some of the most wonderful black and white shots I have ever seen. There is one instance where a woman is holding a child in a makeshift 'Diggers' house, the shade and depth of passion in the childs face, emphasised by the use of monochrome, paints a very vivid picture of the pain being experienced by the wider Digger community. It tells a story not often remembered or even known about by most. Yes there are times when the acting is as wooden as the pikes used by the troops in the opening sequence, but this film is a product of its time. A valiant amateur effort that at times shines as brightly as any masterpiece of arthouse cinema. As an analyis of a political movement it doesn't work for me, but as a portrait in microcosm of the trials and tribulations of a Digger community it is wonderful.Well worth your time if approached with an open mind.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By HJ on 5 Oct 2009
Format: DVD
A beautiful understated evocation of a Leveller commune in post civil war C17th England, seen no doubt through the eyes of filmmakers influenced by post 1968 utopian ideals - the film is historically intriguing in terms of the early 1970s as well as the C17th! I was expecting Winstanley to be historically & politically interesting but I wasn't expecting it to be so visionary & poetic. The representation of the English landscape is quite stunning. At first I wasn't sure about the posh spoken mild mannered non-actor playing Winstanley, but now I think he was the only person who could possibly play the role - he lives it. This might be cinema of the highest order, comparable with Bresson or Rossellini. It's hard to believe the largely "amateur" circumstances in which the film was laboriously made with such great difficulty. That background to the making of the film is explored in detail in the interviews & extras & booklet. There is fully-fledged "making of" documentary, filmed at the time. I liked the fact that the Ranters were played by a real life anarchist group who say in an interview they have their own experimental commune set up on land given to them by John Lennon! An all-round exemplary DVD release from the BFI.
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