THE MILL AND THE CROSS (Lech Majewski, Poland/Sweden 2011) R16
A miracle of technology in the service of the artistic imagination, Lech Majewski’s brilliant film transports its viewers into the living, breathing world of Pieter Bruegel’s dense frieze of Christ’s passion, The Way to Calvary. Bruegel’s 1564 painting sets the drama of the crucifixion within a rustic Flanders scene teeming with everyday life. Majewski - using computer-generated blue-screen compositing, new 3D technology, just-so location shooting in Poland, Austria and New Zealand and a massive backdrop he painted by hand - tells the story of the painting largely through closely observed secular rituals of 16th-century Flemish daily life, in all its earth-toned grubbiness, with occasional scenes revealing Bruegel’s artistic choices and the politics of the day. Windmilling, calf-hauling, bread-peddling, villagers dancing and children horsing around take up the better part of the narrative, while cameos by Rutger Hauer (as Bruegel), Michael York (as his patron and friend) and Charlotte Rampling (as a limpid Virgin Mary) give historical context and symbolic depth. But the narrative is not the point - the extraordinary imagery is. The painting literally comes to life in this spellbinding film.
– Graham Leggat, San Francisco International Film Festival.