Close Up

11 February 2024: Winstanley introduced by Kevin Brownlow


Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, 1975, 95 min  

“The most mysteriously beautiful English film since the best of Michael Powell... and the best pre-twentieth century historical film I can recall.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum  

Following the focus on John Krish in his centennial year, we are pleased to welcome Kevin Brownlow to present his film, Winstanley, co-directed with Andrew Mollo.  

Winstanley is one of two feature films co-directed by Brownlow and Mollo, the other being It Happened Here, imagining a Nazi occupation of Great Britain. The directors based Winstanley on David Caute’s historical novel Comrade Jacob (1961), about the 17th-century Digger movement, one of the world’s first instances of a self-governing, socialist approach to community and collective agricultural land rights. The film employed more real-life activists than it did professional actors, including Sid Rawle of “The New Diggers” (otherwise known as the recipient of an island from John Lennon, which supported a short-lived but successful commune). “We made the film to see if it is possible to make an absolutely authentic historical film,” said Brownlow, “Even the animals came from rare breeds, and the armour for the battle scene came from the Tower of London.” Marx is known to have studied the same pamphlets in the British Museum that Brownlow and Mollo worked from.  

Winstanley is as close to the seventeenth century as cinema gets, and it is a study of a heroic attempt to improve the lives of people. As Winstanley wrote in his pamphlets, and as he says in the film: “Was the earth made to preserve a few covetous, proud men to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the Earth from others, that these may beg or starve in a fruitful land; or was it made to preserve all her children?”  

Followed by a conversation with Kevin Brownlow.