Lech Majewski’s “The Mill & The Cross” transport the viewer, formerly a mere spectator, into the painting and from the scenes in that paintinghe creates a drama that reimagines the lives, loves and torments of the characters one still on a wall now living and breathing in plain view. And in doing all this Majewski evokes the suffering of Christ while he summons the intense emotion of the mournful crowd in Flanders under Spanish occupation.
Majewski’s narrative focuses on three of the characters in the masterpieces, taken directly from the scenes in Bruegel’s painting, including the artist Bruegel himself (Rutger Hauer), his friend and art collector Nicholas Jonghelinck (Michael York), and the Virgin Mary (Charlotte Rampling). He intertwines their imaginary stories with historical facts such as the Philip II edict which, instructed that all heretics be executed, “the men by the sword, the women buried alive” to create heart wrenching emotional intensity. The sheer unadulterated brutality of the scene further removes the emotional distance that often divides the viewer and characters as Majewski brings Bruegel’s panoramic landscape populated with ruddy faced villagers and red-caped Spaniards to life.
Showing the human condition through love lost and found, laughter and sorrow, brutality and compassion, Majewski creates a historical context that is both specific and timeless. And all the while Majewski immortalizes Bruegel by paining a picture of a man capable of capturing a moment like a firefly in a bottle, preserving that moment for all to enjoy while allowing the essence of a truth as profound as Christ’s own to glow.
Lech Majewski is a master craftsman, who in his “The Mill & The Cross” brings The Way to Calvary to the screen and beckons the viewer to enter a world that at first glance seems far removed, but in the hands of Majewski is imminent and approachable in complete emotional detail. “The Mill & The Cross” is part theatre, part art and completely cinematic. http://www.themillandthecross.com/
Cast: Rutger Hauer (Pieter Bruegel), Michael York (Nicolaes Jonghelinck), Charlotte Rampling (Mary), full cast and crew.
US Release Date: 14 September 2011 (USA). Directed by Lech Majewski; written by Lech Majewski and Michael Francis Gibson. Released by Kino Lorber. Running time: 97 minutes; MPAA NR; genre: drama; language: English.
Opening on September 30, 2011 at at Landmark’s Embarcadero Theatre in San Francisco and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley.
Pamela Alexander-Beutler is the editor in chief of the ReelMATERIAL film journal. For more of Pamela’s movie reviews and interviews visit www.reelmaterial.com, take a look at her favorite trailers at ReelTRAILERS on YouTube and follower her on twitter @reel_material.